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Book Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

It starts with a text: “Alice slept with two guys in one night”.

It doesn’t matter if it is true or not, it is too late. The damage is done.

Then one of the boys, a star football player named Brandon, dies in a car accident. Alice must somehow be to blame.

No one cares what the truth about Alice is, for now she is nothing but a Slut and an outcast.

Told in 4 alternating voices, this is the story about Alice.

This is a truly fascinating book because although we hear the story of Alice in 4 voices, not a single 1 of those voices belong to Alice herself.

There is Kelsie, Alice’s former best friend and the girl who starts the “slut wall” in the bathroom.

There is Josh, a fellow football star who happened to be in the car when the accident happens.

There is Elaine, queen bee and mean girl extraordinaire who starts it all, in part because she is still mad about something that happened in 8th grade.

And there is Kurt, a shy genius who reaches out to Alice when no one else will.

Much like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, this is a book about the effect of rumors. It is also a book about slut shaming. It is truly fascinating because many of the voices that we hear speaking are truly craptacular people admitting that they are doing horrible things and taking ownership of it.  It is an incisive and realistic look at teen/high school life and all the ugliness that it can – and often does – contain. Every teen that reads this will recognize the truth in it and will know who the Elaine, Brandon, Kelsie and Kurt’s of their school are.

There is a great conversation towards the end between Elaine and Alice in a beauty salon that really puts high school into perspective. I genuinely loved this moment. I think it is a revelation.

Matthieu does an interesting thing by waiting until the very last moments of the book to give Alice a voice.  She does some other truly remarkable things by making her characters truly unlikable and culpable, letting us see that, and having some interesting resolution in the end. This is a truly profound and discussable book, even beyond the #SVYALit elements. There are a lot of interesting relationship dynamics, including friendship, and some interesting behind the scenes looks at things like rumors, consent, peer pressure, religion, eating disorders, drinking and drugs, small town life and even abortion.

It is also an interesting look at a different type of storytelling, so from a writing perspective there is that as well. The fact that we don’t hear from Alice until the end is such a brave and unique storytelling choice.

For me, the best part was the subtle way it addresses taking responsibility for personal behavior, particularly when you discover the ins and out of the car accident. And I love how self-aware the teens in this book are and just own their pettiness and personal issues. Highly recommended for all the reasons mentioned above. I know it totally ages me, but the book itself brings to mind the Fast Times at Ridgemont High movie, and that is a good thing. The Truth About Alice obviously contains mature discussions of a wide variety of topics including drinking, sex, and abortion for those who need to know.

Publisher’s Description: Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

Coming June 3rd, 2014 from Roaring Book Press. ISBN: 9781596439092

Talking with Teens About Slut Shaming
Slut Shaming part 1 and part 2
Discussing The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher


See more in the #SVYALit Project at our Project Index

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