Title: The Truth About Alice
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan
Pub. Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: Contemporary YA
Rec. Age Level:12+
More by this author: N/A
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Everyone knows Alice… and they all know what she did. She slept with two guys in the same night. She’s the reason that the town’s star quarterback is dead. Alice is the school slut; there’s even a bathroom stall covered with her sexual exploits to prove it. In Jen Mathieu’s debut, four teens tell their version of the truth regarding the notorious Alice. Of course, only one person knows the real truth about Alice: herself.
The Truth About Alice is an undeniably powerful novel about small towns, labels, and bullying. The majority of the novel is told from alternating points-of-view, switching between four of Alice’s peers. Though the narrators are telling stories about Alice, it soon becomes clear that their stories reveal much more about themselves than their intended subject. If Alice is the school slut, each of the narrators fulfills a clichéd high school stereotype as well, from queen bee to school outcast, but, of course, each character is so much more than the box their stereotyped label creates.
I’m very sensitive about words like “slut,” so this novel really resonated with me. Its connotation is horribly demeaning and the term is so widely used – from a backwards term of endearment to a disgusted label – this term is widely and carelessly flung around. In The Truth About Alice, the dangers of such labeling, labeling that often occurs from gossip and mean-spirited name calling, is clearly and compellingly illustrated. As I read, I so terribly wanted to defend Alice and to prevent further humiliation and harm. Now, obviously, Alice is not a real person, but there are girls just like Alice out there. Girls who have been shamed and bullied for something they didn’t do. Or maybe something they did do. It shouldn’t matter whether something happened or didn’t or whether it is regretted or not… Girls in Alice’s position deserve to be respected and bullying is never acceptable. And, as readers will surely find, no person is ever so simple that a singular label, like slut, could accurately define or describe them.
In The Truth About Alice, Mathieu portrays the darker side of the high school experience with raw honesty and realism. Alice’s story is important, as is the conversation this novel is sure to provoke.