The Truth About Tiffany D. Jackson and ALLEGEDLY

This week the Debs are celebrating the launch of Tiffany D. Jackson’s incredible debut book ALLEGEDLY, available at booksellers on Tuesday, January 24th! Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Like clockwork, Momma arrives at 2:35 every other Sunday, right after church. This has been her commitment to me ever since I was locked up. I’ll always remember what she said in the courtroom. “I’ll come see you every week. Well . . . on second thought, maybe every other week. Every week may be a bit too much for my pressure.”

And sure enough, every other Sunday, she would be in the visitors’ center at baby jail, cheerful and bright as cotton candy. One of the officers working my cell block said she deserved mother of the year, for all the love she showed a little psychopathic killer like me.

Momma. Oh, Mary’s momma is a doozy. I hated this woman all the way through, every last little part of her. I hated her for a variety of reasons. Her cloying, fake sentiments toward her daughter. Her over-the-top religious affinity. Her multiple men. Her cruelty. That she let her daughter go to “baby jail.”

But I hated her most because Tiffany is so artful at creating a complex character that you cannot help but hate. You see the various sides of this woman, you sort of want to sympathize with her, you understand why Mary loves her and thinks about her so often. But then Tiffany twists Momma and the almost shiny side of her is gone and you see the dark layers underneath it all. And you hate her even more.

The beauty of this novel is that you have so many villains. Mary Addison, the main character, has allegedly killed a three-month-old baby, back when she was nine years old. Momma is pretty horrible underneath that hot-pink coat–she played no small part in Mary going to jail. The owners of the group home she is in could give a rat’s ass about the troubled girls that they foster and to top it off, the girls in the home are riddled with darkness as well. This is a recipe for a riveting book, IMHO.

I’ve read novels where none of the characters were remotely likeable (ahem, THE CORRECTIONS) and therefore I couldn’t care about them, and that’s not what I’m describing here. I cared about all the characters in ALLEGEDLY, with strong passion, whether it was anger, sympathy, compassion, or shaking my head at incompetence. I FELT a lot while reading this novel, particularly when it came to Mary, the heart of the story.

And this is where I have to tell you the truth. Tiffany D. Jackson, is a master of manipulation. She got me to care about parts of the book that would hurt me later. She forced me to believe things about the characters that would completely be upended when I least expected it.

She kept me turning the pages. Not ALLEGEDLY. DEFINITELY.

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Crystal King is a writer, culinary enthusiast and social media expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught writing, creativity and social media at Grub Street and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. Crystal received her masters in critical and creative thinking from University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives with her husband and their two cats in the Boston area.