This is one of those books that had been on my radar for a while. I hesitated because there were such mixed reviews that it made me pause on reading it. Finally, it peaked my curiosity enough that I opted to borrow from my library. I’m so glad that I did. Mind you that this is not an easy story, nor does Jackson sugar coat anything. This is a raw, powerful, and compelling story. There are chapters/scenes/times when I wanted to skim or skip because it was so tough to read but that usually makes for the best story.
Short recap: Mary B. Addison killed a baby at the tender age of nine years old… Allegedly. There was no true and factual evidence that proved Mary killed the three month old and Mary never talked about it. That was enough for the courts to convict her regardless. Now a teenager in a half-way house Mary’s life has taken a turn nobody saw coming so will that finally give her the power to find her voice? Will she finally be able to talk about what really happened all of those years ago?
This book was unputdownable. Is that a word? No? Well, I’m making it a word. I was hooked from the start. The story is told from Mary’s POV and this girl had a lot to say, even when she didn’t say a word to anyone. After being convicted and put in “baby jail”, Mary’s life was harsh and terrifying. That’s putting it nicely. The horrible conditions of the group home in which these girls lived blew my mind. The fact that the other girls in the group home were nastier, meaner, and more cut throat than Mary was nothing short of eye opening. Mary was always picked on and the target of the other girl’s hate because she killed a baby. Allegedly. Mary spends a majority of the book trying to figure out a way to get out of this hellish group home life, even more so after she finds out she is pregnant. That is when it clicked in her mind that nobody would let her keep her baby because she had been convicted of killing a baby. Allegedly. Mary’s character was wonderfully complex, broken, and fragile. I loved reading everything from her POV as it made the story more believable. It made me want to cheer her on when it came to finding her voice and speaking the truth of what happened so long ago.
The way the story was told was also incredibly compelling. It was woven together from newspaper articles, police interviews, fragments and excerpts of books, court transcripts and more. This really helped to give depth and perspective to the overall story and cast a shadow of a doubt on Mary’s alleged guilt. Even Mary’s own mother walks around ashamed of what her daughter did. Allegedly. That was a story line I could not get enough of … Mary and her mother. Those two together were like a can of gasoline and a match. It was a matter of time before things came to a head and someone blew up.
Not only was this a powerhouse of a story of what happens in a group home for severely trouble teens convicted of committing crimes, it also shed light on the criminal justice system and the foster care system. It was all believable and realistic. It did not sugar coat anything or make me believe that everything always works out for the best. It reminded me that not every person who works for the criminal justice system and/or the foster care system is a good person. Some people are just nasty no matter what. It added an extra layer to this story that allowed it to really sink it’s claws into me.
Jackson knows how to research and write a hell of a compelling story. This had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. That ending… WHOA! That ending! This book alone made me a Jackson reader for life. I absolutely cannot wait to read what she comes up with next. If you have been thinking about reading this story, please do so. I am only kicking myself because I wish I had read it sooner.