Publishers Weekly Review
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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Jackson delivers a requiem about systemic issues of injustice in this debut novel that portrays the juvenile justice system, meant to rehabilitate youth who have gone astray, and the social service system, which is intended to defend those whose rights have been infringed upon. Interwoven with case study excerpts, depositions, and inmate interviews, this gripping thriller centers on 16-year-old Mary Beth Addison, who was incarcerated for the alleged murder of a three-month-old infant. Not all of the clues point to then nine-year-old Mary's guilt, though. Now Mary is in a group home with hopes of moving into the world and maybe even to college. But she's been unable to get her birth certificate from her mother, and she needs the document to take her SATs. She's also just learned that she's pregnant, which threatens to turn her macabre existence into a permanent nightmare. Because Mary is underage and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Ted, is also in a group facility, their child will be put up for adoption after Mary gives birth, but Mary will go to any length to prevent that from happening. With remarkable skill, Jackson offers an unflinching portrayal of the raw social outcomes when youth are entrapped in a vicious cycle of nonparenting and are sent spiraling down the prison-for-profit pipeline. VERDICT This dark, suspenseful exploration of justice and perception raises important questions teens will want to discuss. An excellent selection for YA shelves.-Sabrina Carnesi, -Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*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 allegedly that 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.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2016 Booklist