I love buying books on the go, straight before I head off to whatever adventure life has in stock for me. Those are uninformed and unjustifiable decisions at the check-out and they are, quite usually, the best.
A while ago, something emotionally exhausting happened. My best friend B jumped to my help and we agreed to meet for coffee downtown; to talk about this giant jumbling mess of thoughts in my head. We discussed social relationships, grief, weird feelings, good feelings and appropriateness and it helped me a ton to put stuff into perspective. As it usually happens when B and I grab coffee, we also raided various stores, including our not-so-local book store chain Thalia.
Amongst my completely unreasonable purchases was Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice – emphasis on amongst, though.
Later that day, as we had finished raiding Thalia, we decided to head to Leipzig, which is about an hour train ride away, because we both enjoy train rides and our student tickets cover the distance.
We got there fairly easy, but our train back home was cancelled, so we embarked on an almost two hour ride in a crappy little bus and a train waiting somewhere else back home. We arrived. I was dead tired, but already had finished half of The Truth About Alice. And that memory will forever be glued right to the book’s cover.
“Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.
But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?
It’s true. Ask ANYBODY.
Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.
In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know.
But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.”
So here’s why I bought this book: For one, because I am sucker for YA with pretty covers, but also because I had hoped for a differentiated glimpse at slut-shaming, as advertised on the back. Spoilert Alert: I did not get the latter.
Before I start my rant, let me get this out there: The book is great. I loved the book. Jennifer Mathieu has a very distinct style, which she managed to wonderfully transfer onto the narrative characters of her book. I loved, loved, loved Alice and oh lord, at time I felt like punching one or two people (even as a die-hard pacifist).
I thoroughly enjoyed the story line, as more and more conflicts began to arise with each of the narrators. To be fair, I could have done without Josh and Elaine and would have preferred a deeper look into Kurt and/or Kelsie instead, but that’s just complaining on a ridiculously high level.
I breezed through the book in just two sessions and for me, this speaks volumes. It was definitely and absolute page turner, but this is also where my only real criticism comes in:
Personally, I feel like the book could have done with another fifty pages. The end felt somewhat anti-climatic, with every conflict getting resolved in the right order. Josh’s conflict could have used some more time just as did Elaine’s, but in the end the implications were enough to see where Mathieu was going with this.
I loved the book. I really did. Except for one small thing:
In my head, I had hoped for slut-shaming to be faced in a more direct, heart-to-heart-talk manner. That did not happen and I feel like that was a missed chance for Mathieu. All her female characters struggle with very female-specific problems and, in the end, only one of them has the true revelation that she is more than her conflict; Elaine.
I feel that the general notion in the book was more of a “You’re still the same, great person despite slut-shaming happening” and less “Slut-shaming is bad and we should get to the root of that.”.
Personally, the book left a bit of an impression that it communicated “You are going to find someone even though you are being slut-shamed”, which I feel is an entirely wrong response to someone suffering from this horrible injustice – especially if we are talking about high school girls. I see why Jen Mathieu chose to go down this route and, to be perfectly fair, that is an important message – your self-worth does not depend on the number of partners you have had. However, especially with a lot of girl-on-girl hate happening in this novel, I really would have wished the issue had been tackled at the root.
I feel like it would be unfair to judge a book based on the expectations I had in my head, and the more I distance myself and let time pass since finishing it, the more I like the book. It is an absolutely solid piece of YA and I can definitely give a reading recommendation. Four out of five anatomical hearts for The Truth About Alice!