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Annotation: When Mary, a teenager living in a group home, becomes pregnant, authorities take another look at the crime for which Mary was convicted when she was nine years old.
Catalog Number: #137714
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 387 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-06-242264-2
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-242264-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016935938
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
When she was a child, Mary, who is black, was convicted of killing a white baby. Now almost sixteen, she's placed in a group home, which is just as physically and emotionally taxing as juvie. Things change drastically when Mary discovers she is pregnant. This dark novel explores justice, truth, trust, and abuse; a gritty and emotional read.
Publishers Weekly
Mary Addison, a black 15-year-old from Brooklyn, has been locked up in -baby jail- for six years, after allegedly killing a three-month-old white child. Now living in a group home, Mary is bright, quiet, and well behaved, which makes her the target of the more aggressive girls in the home. Her one escape is volunteering at a nursing home and having secret assignations with Ted, a fellow volunteer also living in a group home. When Mary becomes pregnant and faces losing custody of the baby, she comes forward with a startling confession: she didn-t kill Alyssa. Threaded with media accounts of Alyssa-s killing and police interviews with the nine-year-old Mary, Jackson-s debut is reminiscent of the popular true crime podcasts Serial and Criminal: the characters are complex, the situation unsettling, and the line between right and wrong hopelessly blurred. It-s also intensely relevant, addressing race, age, and mental illness within the criminal justice system. Well conceived and executed, this is an absorbing and exceptional first novel. Ages 14-up. Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary. (Jan.)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
With a black mother suffering from multiple mental conditions and a possibly white father who's "N/A"—at least according to her birth certificate—15-year-old Mary B. Addison finds herself navigating the prison-industrial complex alone for allegedly killing a 3-month-old white baby. She was placed in "baby jail" at 9 under a cloud of national notoriety spawned by her case. Now she endures unremitting bullying from the staff and the other girls at the all-female group home in Brooklyn, where she lives under house arrest; the attentions of the do-gooder white female writing coach who tries to give the young women hope through words yet "knows [their] future is grim"; and the bureaucratic obstacles to get a state ID simply to take the SAT. While in this gritty environment, Mary becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, Ted, an 18-year-old black man who is also confined in the labyrinth of the penal system but later must turn to "survival sex" to maintain his shelter. The author presents all of this as a matter of fact in Mary's voice, not sensationally or, worse, exploitatively. Because of this, her novel effectively joins Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (2010) to become another indictment of the penal system's decimating power beyond its bars and, more subtly and refreshingly, a pro-reproductive-justice novel. Searing and true. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Mary B. Addison was nine when a jury quickly convicted her of a crime the public was already convinced she'd committed: the murder of Alyssa Richardson, a white infant that African American Mary and her mother were babysitting. Back then, Mary kept quiet about the incident. Now almost 16, she has spent the better part of her life under lock and key, first in "baby jail" and then in a group home. But Mary has a boyfriend now, and they're expecting a baby, and there's no way the state will let a convicted baby-killer keep her child. For the first time since her trial, Mary may actually have to speak about her childhood, her tumultuous relationship with her mother, and what happened legedly at night. Interspersed with psychiatric evaluations and newspaper clippings, this slowly unfolds in two directions: elements of Mary's past are revealed even as the story rolls toward its unsettling conclusion. Suspenseful without being emotionally manipulative, compelling without resorting to shock value, this is a tightly spun debut that wrestles with many intense ideas and ends with a knife twist that will send readers racing back to the beginning again. Complicated family loyalties, the lasting effects of media sensationalism, and the privileges inherent with whiteness all come into play here, and Mary herself is a carefully crafted character, unreliable at times and sympathetic at others, who will not be forgotten.
Word Count: 86,126
Reading Level: 4.2
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.2 / points: 12.0 / quiz: 191904 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.5 / points:21.0 / quiz:Q72941
Lexile: HL620L

4 starred reviews!

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

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