BOOK REPORT for The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Cover Story: Sticks and Stones

BFF Charm: Maybe

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Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Talky Talk: Just the Facts, Ma’am

Anti-Bonus Factor: Small-Minded Small Town

Relationship Status: See You at School

 The Truth About Alice

Cover Story: Sticks and Stones

The cover brings to mind the old chestnut, “Sticks and stones may break my bones / But words will never hurt me.” It is, of course, patently false, and I think Alice’s figure with words literally written on and around her, give the impression that the character has been branded. It really works for this book.

The Deal:

Everyone knows Alice Franklin is a big slut—just ask anyone. She slept with two guys at the same party, and then one of them died in a car crash while she was sexting him. Told through multiple first-person narratives, every character has a story to tell and a detail to add, even if they weren’t at the party. Although the entire story centers on Alice, she is the last one given a voice of her own.

The book deals with some heavy themes—hypocrisy, bullying—and while it doesn’t exactly gloss over them, it doesn’t venture into After School Special territory, either. Most of the jerk characters know that they’re jerks, but they keep doing terrible things anyway. If you’re looking for a story that involves comeuppance, this probably isn’t the one for you, but I think it’s all the more realistic that way.

BFF Charm: Maybe

BFF Maybe - Alice

I thought Alice was the most interesting character, but she doesn’t get to tell her own story until the very end of the book. She cycles through depression, defensiveness, and vulnerability—but wouldn’t you, too, if your entire small town thought you were a teenage tramp who distracted a driver into a fatal car crash? Because we only see her through other people’s perceptions (until the very end), it’s hard to decide whether I would give her my BFF charm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Almost everyone in this story is a jerk, but there is one character who treats Alice like an actual human being. (Not at first, though: She is, after all, his fantasy girl since seventh grade.) Although nothing particularly romantic happens, the moment where he realizes he enjoys her for who she is rather than who he thought she would be is very satisfying.

Talky Talk: Just the Facts, Ma’am

Jennifer Mathieu has a very straightforward way of writing prose, but every once in a while she’ll pepper her paragraphs with a poetic turn of phrase. The voices given to the characters seemed fairly realistic, so even when we hardly get to know a character, they still feel like a teenager who could exist.

Mathieu’s writing, and the fact that the book is only 208 pages long, made for a very quick read. I didn’t feel like I heard from Alice enough after I had read everyone else’s version of her, which is a shame, because she was the most interesting person in the entire book.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Small-Minded Small Town

Small Town

Small-minded small towns or communities always make me wince—and generate my instant sympathy for the rumor mill’s latest victim. Since this book was not only set in high school, where gossip flies like pudding in a food fight, but also a small Texas town, the adults get in on the rumors, too. I felt terrible for Alice before I even got a chance to know her, and wanted to smack everyone who had nothing better to do than slut-shame a 17-year-old girl. While this was the perfect setting for the book, the sheer amount of pettiness from the characters made my skin crawl.

Casting Call:

Josie Loren

Josie Loren as Alice Franklin

Relationship Status: See You at School

Book, although our date was fun, I think we’re best off hanging out at school together as friends. I’ll see you around the lockers, and don’t worry—if someone writes some graffiti about you in the Slut Stall, I’ll be the first to Sharpie right over it.

The Truth About Alice is available now.

Jennie is the leader of the San Francisco FYA book club and an old-school member of the L.J. Smith fandom. When she's not reading or talking about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, thrifts for vintage everything, and practices law.