Why We All Need to Read 'The Truth About Alice' by Jennifer Mathieu
The Truth About Alice takes on the tough topic of slut-shaming, something that all of us are, unfortunately, way too familiar with. Even though Alice is the “main” character, we don’t get to hear her voice until the very end of the book. Instead, we hear four other characters talk about her and all the things she (supposedly) did. Did you know she slept with two guys in the same night? And she hooked up with a guy at the pool? And her sexts caused someone to die?
As ridiculous as the sext=murder correlation might seem, that’s basically how rumors go in high school. They start out sort of normal and end up totally out there–at least when it comes to girls. Alice’s (presumed) sexuality causes her to be shunned at school–that is, by everyone except for Kurt Morelli, who manages to see the person she really is (even if, at first, he sees her as a perfect Slutty Pixie Dream Girl).
And what is it about YA and girls named Alice? First, we have one of my favorite series ever, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. And then there’s Go Ask Alice, which I embarrassingly thought was real when I was a kid, even though it so obviously wasn’t (seriously, no kid says, “Lucy Martin is having a Christmas party, and I’m supposed to bring a gelatin salad”). Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice is another great entry into the genre of Alice-fic, even if it isn’t by an anonymous fake teenager.
Even though The Truth About Alice deals with some high school stereotypes (there’s the jock, the bitchy popular girl, the wannabe, and the nerd), it manages to transcend these clichés and say something really interesting. Which isn’t to say that this is a “message” book…ugh, is there anything worse? Like I said before, this isn’t Go Ask Alice. Instead, The Truth About Alice ends up saying something actually interesting about a girl’s sexuality. The standards we set for girls are completely contradictory. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Don’t be a prude, but don’t be a slut. And if you have sex with a guy, people will think he’s great and you’re trashy.
What Alice goes through is obviously magnified and dramatized, but it’s no different from what tons of girls go through in high schools around the country every day. The Truth About Alice will make you mad and it will break your heart, but it will definitely make you think about our society’s gross double standards when it comes to sexuality.
-One article I read about the book described it as Friday Night Lights meets Easy A. Probably the only time I’ve been more excited about a combination of two things I loved was when my college dining hall served a grilled cheese sandwich made out of pizza.
-Jennifer Mathieu wrote this great piece on The Hairpin about the “bad girls” of YA. She writes about sexuality in books by authors like Sara Zarr, Siobhan Vivian, Judy Blume, Rachel Cohn and E. Lockhart.
What about you guys? Have you read The Truth About Alice, or do you plan on checking it out? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave me a comment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.