Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.
Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.
Title: The Truth About Alice
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemp/Issues Book
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Length: 208 pages
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Themes: Bullying, Slut-shaming, Rumours/Gossip
POV: Multiple first person
Reviewer: Nick Morgan
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu is formatted sort of like a series of interviews. It investigates the truth of the rumours that Alice Franklin had sex with two guys at one party. Four people involved in the rumours or their aftermath tell their version of the story.
It’s a really cool format, and I really wanted to like the book because of it. To be honest, I think Mathieu nails the format. But the main problem I had with the book was that the four characters are quite stereotypical, and I didn’t feel like we get quite enough depth to their characters. Instead, the book focused on plot twists based on what information was available to each character. Again, I think that was well done, but it wasn’t enough on its own to make this book a winner.
The four characters in the story are:
1. Kelsie, Alice’s sort-of best friend. I felt she had the most nuanced character. She had a lot of direct information on the issue, and what she did with it was quite believable, based on her personality and my personal experiences with similar people in high school. The pressure to fit in and to avoid being associated with the losers of the school, especially the disgraced popular crowd is a strong and realistic motivation.
2. Kurt, a nerdy loner who has a crush on Alice. He doesn’t care much about other people’s opinions, and his position as the neighbor of one of the jocks Alice slept with at the party gives him some unique insight into the situation, as well as info direct from the horse’s mouth.
3. Josh, buddy to Brandon, a typical jock and star quarterbaack known for his way with the ladies and one of the boys rumour says Alice had sex with at the party. Not only is he Brandon’s best friend, he was in the car when it crashed and killed Brandon while he was texting Alice. Or maybe sexting Her? Josh may be caught up in the typical bro-dom of the jock clique at Healy High, but he seems to realize as time goes on that some things are more important that fitting in with the popular kids.
4. Elaine, Healy High’s queen bee and typical mean girl. And the start of all the rumours. Some people can never let go of a grudge, especially against a former friend.
While these POVs give the story throough coverage, it’s that very perfect cross-section that makes the story a bit mechanical. They all fall under pretty common high school stereotypes, and while those stereotypes are based in reality, here they lack a great deal of the subtlety present in real life. In part, this may be due to the short length of the book. And in part it’s probably due to the shininess of the premise. But a truly quality book, YA or otherwise, doesn’t let the premise detract from the characters and their arcs.
Overall, it’s not a bad book, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more from this author after her writing has matured a bit. After all, there’s quite a bit of competition in this genre.
Conclusion: 75/100 (Above average, but not going to be a classic)
Premise: 8/10 (Strong premise, well-handled, but not perfect)
Plot: 9/10 (Many good plot twists)
Setting: 7/10 (Pretty typical small town, nothing memorable)
Main Character: 7/10 (Not great, but we see so little of her)
Format 9/10 (Loved the multi-viewpoint structure)
Romance Sub-plot 6/10 (I liked how the relationship turned out, but it wasn’t brilliant)
Supporting Characters: 6/10 (Lacked nuance and were a bit stereotypical)
Writing: 6/10 (Decent, but not great)
Themes: 8/10 (I love stories with unreliable narrators or rumours)
Resolution: 7/10 (Saw it coming, mostly, but still satisfying)
Buy Or Borrow: Buy paperback or borrow from the library.