Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Matthieu

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer MatthieuThe Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press on June 3, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

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.

If you’re looking for a nice, fluffy beach read, look no further than The Truth About Alice. Just kidding. I wanted to make sure you guys were paying attention. The Truth About Alice is decidedly non-fluffy, considering that in centers on the topics of slut-shaming, abortion and bullying. I’ve been seeing the good reviews roll in for Mathieu’s debut, and I’m very glad that I feel the same way my friends have before me. While this one didn’t rip me apart emotionally like I anticipated, The Truth About Alice takes a hard look at our culture’s attitude towards sex and opens up a very necessary debate.

Mathieu tells the story of Alice Franklin using five first person points of view. Personally, I love multiple first person POVs when they’re done well, and Mathieu certainly achieves that. Elaine, Kelsie, Kurt, Josh, and Alice all had distinct voices to me. Even better, the story never dragged during any of the perspectives and all served a purpose for the plot.

Stylistically, Mathieu makes the daring choice to present Alice’s perspective only at the very end of the book. It’s as if the reader is a transfer student to Healy High and is talking to students in turn, learning about the local gossip. Alice Franklin is a name on everyone’s lips, ever since the party where she purportedly had sex with two guys in a row. From being semi-popular, Alice’s reputation went into the trash, leaving her friendless. Only once the reader has heard each person’s truth about Alice, be it that she is a slut, misunderstood, a scapegoat or a dream girl, does the reader get to hear from Alice herself. This method really serves to illustrate how hard it is to know who to trust in high school and the various factors that play into decision-making.

Early on, Kelsie compares high school to Nazi Germany. She thinks that she would have been a Nazi, had she lived there. Before the incident, Kelsie was best friends with Alice, but afterwards she doesn’t want to risk her new-found popularity by remaining friends with the town slut. Even if she were sure the rumors were unfounded, Kelsie’s pretty sure she would continue to toe the party line of the popular students. What I find apt about this comparison is the fact that, much as everyone wants to believe they would risk censure to support a friend, most people wouldn’t, at least in high school. Each character, but Alice, is a bit like Kelsie. They all have their own reasons for believing the worst in Alice or even lying about her entirely.

Mathieu also considers the varied and unhealthy way women’s sexuality is treated in society. Where Alice is judged unfavorably for having had sex with two guys in one night, neither guy suffers in any way. When the guys do it, it’s cool, but a girl ends up with her name derided in the school’s bathroom stall. Because of this, girls are hiding their sexual history, embarrassed and afraid to admit what they’ve done. Even if the sex was what they wanted, they feel shame because that’s what society says they should feel. It’s a catch-22 shame spiral of pain that very much needs to stop.

The ending fell a bit flat for me, pushing for as much of a happily ever after as is possible, and I don’t really buy the way things end up. It struck me as overly idealistic in a book that had up to then been very hard-hitting and honest. Much as I believe in the friendship between Alice and Kurt, I didn’t feel a romantic connection at all. I also think tying up everything in a neat little romance bow does a disservice to everything else. It comes dangerously close to romance fixing everything for my tastes.

Mathieu’s debut will appeal to readers who enjoy darker contemporaries (think Courtney Summers) with unlikable characters. Mathieu focuses primarily on the popular kids, not the surprisingly lovely outcasts.

Favorite Quote:

If you give people enough time, eventually they’ll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif slut mean girls

5 responses to “Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Matthieu”

  1. Danielle says:

    This sounds pretty gritty and hard hitting and definitely something I’d be interested in. I love books that explore attitudes towards sex especially now with the #YesAllWomen hashtag on twitter keeping the focus on it. I’m always hesitant about multiple POVs so it’s a joy to hear when they’re done right. Purchasing!
    Danielle recently posted…The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead (Age of X) | ReviewMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ha, the timing of this book did end up coinciding nicely with the hashtag! Obviously that wasn’t planned, but it’s a nice coincidence.

  2. Meg says:

    You totally got me with your opening line. I had a mental record screech moment and everything.

    This books sounds awesome and full of things I like to get super-angry about. I am vair vair excite to read it (as soon as I finish the epic tome that is CoHF, obvs)(*weeps*)

    I’m glad it worked out for you, though it’s a shame about the ending.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Bahahahaha, I win! Obviously I was in a strange mood when I wrote the review last night.

      HEH. HAVE FUN, MEGGYYYYYYY.

  3. I really like this review of The Truth About Alice, because it makes me reconsider my perspective and view of the book. I mean, I think I gave it like 2.5 stars because I had such a hard time connecting and because I really wanted more of Alice’s perspective. I like though how you describe the author’s choice in making her chapter last as daring, I did not consider it that way.

    So, job well done in making me look at a book in a totally different light.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…The Tyrant’s Daughter by JC Carleson | Audiobook ReviewMy Profile

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