Monday, May 12, 2014

ARC Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
The Truth About Alice
By Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: June 3, 2014

To Sum It Up: Not only is Alice Franklin a complete outcast at school, but just about everyone in the small town of Healy, Texas talks about her. Healy is still recovering from the death of its high school’s star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, who was reportedly exchanging texts with Alice when his car crashed. Alice’s reputation was already the subject of gossip even before the accident, with rumors swirling that she slept with two guys, one of them Brandon, at a party. Scorning Alice is only too easy, if only because it keeps everyone’s own secrets from becoming the talk of Healy.

Review: I normally don’t go for potentially drama-heavy books like this one, but I happened to be in the mood to read something different, and I’m glad that I picked up The Truth About Alice. There’s really not a whole lot that’s extraordinary about the plot itself; you have a teenage girl who’s not only been labeled as a slut by just about everyone in school but who’s also blamed by most of her small town for the death of its high school football star. High school football is one of the few sources of entertainment in a place like Healy, making the loss of Brandon Fitzsimmons even more devastating. Wild rumors dog Alice Franklin wherever she goes, and she’s a pariah at school. These aren’t exactly elements that I usually seek out in a book, but they totally work here. Credit Jennifer Mathieu with writing a very well paced novel that I found difficult to put down.

I’ve blathered on before in other reviews of contemporary novels about how my attention needs to be grabbed quickly. That was not a problem here; the prose was engaging from the get-go. The book could have easily become bogged down in trite melodrama, but the sharp writing prevents that. You know from the beginning that you don’t have a full picture of Alice’s character, only a sketch that’s based on what everyone else says about her, most of which is far from flattering. The promise of finding out who Alice really was and what actually happened the night Brandon died were what kept me turning the pages eagerly.

The book is narrated from the alternating POVs of a handful of Alice’s classmates, and whatever you learn about her is through their eyes. It’s a technique that works extremely well as you’re left to absorb all of the details and then form your own opinion of Alice. Each chapter isn’t just about Alice, though; Elaine, Kelsie, Josh, and Kurt are all given a good deal of depth. Even when I was angered by the way some of the characters, like Elaine and Kelsie, treated Alice, I was as invested in their individual stories as I was in Alice’s. Mathieu does an excellent job tying her characters’ lives together and utilizing multiple POVs to great effect.

Sometimes a book just clicks with you, even when there’s a familiar ring to some elements of the plot. The top-notch storytelling in The Truth About Alice sets it apart, though, making is a very worthwhile read.

All in All: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the writing and the characters.

8 comments:

  1. This sounds like a really intriguing read! I'm glad you enjoyed it - sometimes you do need something different and even though I don't usually pick up contemporary, I want to give this a chance. I like books that challenge preconceptions.

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    1. I'm always so torn when deciding whether or not to read a contemporary novel. They've been misses more often than hits for me, but this one was a definite hit! I hope you decide to give it a try!

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  2. Oh wow, I'd read this too even if it's heavy on emotions. This could be a great book club read

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    1. I think it would, too! It would definitely generate plenty of discussion topics.

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  3. I'm happy you enjoyed it! I'm going to start this soon and after reading this review, I'm way more excited for it!

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    1. Yay! I hope you find it as compelling as I did!

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  4. Your praise for this one has gotten my attention more than any of the buzz I'd seen for this one. Like you, I don't tend to seek out contemporaries..especially potentially dramatic ones as you say but for some reason I think I could really get into this one. The way the POVs alternate and the fact that we learn a lot about the MC through the eyes of others already piqued my curiosity about Alice as a character, not to mention figuring out exactly what went down that fateful night. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for this one. Thanks for the fantastic review Lee ^^

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    1. I was quite surprised by how hard I found it to put this book down for the night. I even found myself trying to read a chapter or two before leaving for work in the morning! It features some really excellent pacing, and best of all, I didn't think it was over the top in the drama department.

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