Allegedly

Tiffany D. Jackson. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-242264-4

Mary Addison, a black 15-year-old from Brooklyn, has been locked up in “baby jail” for six years, after allegedly killing a three-month-old white child. Now living in a group home, Mary is bright, quiet, and well behaved, which makes her the target of the more aggressive girls in the home. Her one escape is volunteering at a nursing home and having secret assignations with Ted, a fellow volunteer also living in a group home. When Mary becomes pregnant and faces losing custody of the baby, she comes forward with a startling confession: she didn’t kill Alyssa. Threaded with media accounts of Alyssa’s killing and police interviews with the nine-year-old Mary, Jackson’s debut is reminiscent of the popular true crime podcasts Serial and Criminal: the characters are complex, the situation unsettling, and the line between right and wrong hopelessly blurred. It’s also intensely relevant, addressing race, age, and mental illness within the criminal justice system. Well conceived and executed, this is an absorbing and exceptional first novel. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary. (Jan.) [/em]
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