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review 2017-11-29 11:53
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody. Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the "slut stall" in the girls' bathroom: "Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers" and "Alice got an abortion last semester." After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they "know" about Alice-and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.





* Read for the 2017 Anti-Bully Readathon week: November 13th-19th




High schooler Alice Franklin is being targeted & blamed for the death of fellow student and star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons. Through the technique of alternating POVs, author Jennifer Mathieu gives the reader multiple perspectives of that one fateful night when Fitzsimmons was killed in a car crash after leaving a party at the house of popular girl Elaine O'Shea.


Four important characters step forward and tell their version of events: Elaine O'Shea, party host; Josh Waverly, in the car with Brandon when it crashed; Kurt Morelli, Brandon's next door neighbor who's just a little bit infatuated with Alice; Kelsie Sanders, former best friend of Alice who has recently ditched her (basically) to try to win a place in the clique of popular peoples. Then there's Alice herself who has some choice words for her rebuttal. 


  • >> Elaine: Still ticked at Alice over guy drama from forever ago, enraged all over again when Elaine's on / off guy Brandon starts paying attention to Alice. Immediately after Brandon's death, has no problem feeding into the slut-shaming of Alice, spreading it around. Also, Elaine claims "Alice sounds like a total grandma name" anyway... Okay, I see you, ELAINE
  • >> Kelsie: Admits to generally being a follower rather than an original kind of person, so she pretty much throws her friend under the bus to gain points with the cool kids, also fueled by old beef with Alice! Uses drama of Alice to hide her own secrets she doesn't want surfacing. 
  • >> Josh: Claims that Alice was blowing up Brandon's phone while Brandon & Josh were in the car and that's what ended up causing the crash... also, Josh may have some confusing homoerotic feelings about Brandon he doesn't want others to pick up on?
  • >> Kurt: genius level nerd, orphaned, living with grandmother next door to Brandon's house... just a bit in love with Alice but too shy to admit it... being one who understands what it feels like to be socially ostracized, Kurt turns out to be the ONE person who gives Alice the benefit of a doubt and still treats her like a human. Brains and Heart in this guy! 


"Oh Kurt, I love it. But I didn't get you anything. You're helping me. I should have bought you something. You gave me a first edition of The Outsiders and all I gave you was one of my mom's shitty beers." (Alice)


"It's okay.. This beer isn't so shitty."     :-)


So, in this small town of Healy, Texas you can imagine how it doesn't take long for the rumors -- starting with the one about Alice having a three way at Elaine's party, one of the rumored participants being the Healy's beloved football star, Brandon -- to quickly spiral out of control. The adults themselves, who you'd think ought to know better, get in on the dirt flinging on this poor girl's rep!


Now, when I say "poor girl", Alice doesn't have a snowy white record to begin with... she'll tell you herself what all she actually had a hand in... and some of it is solidly poor choices that end up hurting people... but deserving of the mess she's eventually swirled up in herself? Not so sure it's a fair distribution of karma here. Former bestie Kelsie, the one time she decides to be a leader, uses her new found boldness to write defamatory remarks about Alice on bathroom stalls, which encourages other girls to jump in and get competitive with just how viciously they can talk about a girl they barely know. 


I was not at all impressed with Kelsie in the beginning, my reader mind pretty quickly deeming her the petty weakling who needed to find her backbone already. While that opinion stayed with me in some form til the story's close, I did end up cutting her a TINY bit of slack after she reveals some of the darker portions of her backstory and her motives for turning on Alice. While her actions are still disappointing, to say the least, she at least finds a point where she has the classic "I'm becoming what I hate" realization. As she puts it, "All this just to sit at the good table in cafeteria." I know, right?! 


While the plot itself was not the most riveting for me (I personally prefer The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher), I do applaud Mathieu for at least illustrating the high school experience in a relatively realistic way. So often I come across YA books that sound absolutely nothing like my HS days, leaving me to wonder, "Seriously? Is this what it's like now? I remember a little melodrama but daaaang." At least here I found characters that did remind me of people I grew up with -- I knew girls like Kelsie, and certainly Elaine, and I most definitely recall the jocks talking smack over cans of Natty Light like Josh & Brandon do here! I also liked how the characters, in their own time, little by little, come to the realization that their anger towards Alice, their bullying of her, is likely just a projection of pain elsewhere in their lives. Pretty profound for teens to realize that, as I come across adults daily who aren't on that level of awareness yet, and I'm glad to see it written in this novel so that YA readers everywhere can ponder on that idea themselves. 



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review 2017-09-01 00:00
Moxie: A Novel
Moxie: A Novel - Jennifer Mathieu This is the book I wish I'd read as a teenager. I was unapologetically feminist growing up, but had no idea what a Riot Grrrl was, no idea that there were waves of feminist thought, and no idea that others might be just as tired as I was of the double standards throughout school. Viv feels real and flawed, fumbling around in her anger, taking a stand, and finding friends along the way. (I love the constant references to punk music and have definitely made a playlist as a result.)

Mathieu makes sure to include other resources and history at the end of the book for context, pointing readers to other resources, and ways to fight back against sexism and injustice. Feeling empowered? Great! Let's talk intersectionality. Let's talk accountability. Let's talk activism.

Ultimately, MOXIE's message is: It's easy for the powerful squelch dissent when the voices are few and frightened; it's impossible to stop the roars when we stand together in solidarity. (Because Moxie girls fight back!)
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review 2017-03-10 02:53
Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu
Afterward - Jennifer Mathieu

This is a really tough book for me to rate and review.  Before I started listening to this audiobook, I had no idea that the story would so closely follow a kidnapping situation that happened in my hometown.  At first, I thought it was a coincidence but the more I listened and the more I realized that the real event had to be the inspiration for this book.  I have no problem with books that are inspired by actual events but I do think it is extremely important that enough of the story be changed that it isn't so easily recognizable especially in situations like this one where minors where involved.

The book doesn't exactly follow the actual events.  But it is really, really close.  The only big differences were the fact that one of the boys in this story has autism and the kidnapper kills himself rather than allow himself to be captured.  The other details of the kidnapping are pretty much spot on.  One of the boys is kidnapped at age 11 and kept for 4 years until he is found when he is 15.  The other boy is kept for 4 days before he was found.  The first boy is kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend's house.  All of these things happened.  I remember seeing the parents of the first boy begging for his safe return for all four of those years.  I remember the absolute shock that I felt when they were found safe.  I couldn't believe that they were here just miles from my house for that entire time period.  The actual rescue took place a little more than 10 years ago when my girls were 12 and 6 and I remember the absolute fear that I felt that something like this could happen so close to home.   I think that this had to be a very traumatic experience for everyone involved and I wonder how having a book like this that tells such a similar story makes them feel.

The bulk of this book does take place after the kidnapping and I doubt that Ethan and Caroline's tale during this time would look anything like the actual victims.  I did like the focus on therapy for Ethan's family and I really wished that Dylan would have had the same opportunities.   I liked the friendship that developed between Ethan and Caroline.  They have both been through a lot and sometimes have trouble relating to other people.  Ethan has a lot of issues that he needs to work through and he really doesn't have any friends.  His mother is extremely overprotective which is understandable considering what they have been through.

I did like the narration a lot.  This was the first time that I have listened to either of these narrators and I thought they both did an excellent job.  I liked that the use of two narrators to tell this story.  I don't think that the book would have had the same impact without the dual points of view.  I would definitely listen to both of these narrators again in the future.

I thought the actual story was well done.  I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn't constantly comparing it to the event it was based upon.  I am probably quite a bit older than the target audience for this book and I think most readers will not be familiar with the kidnapping that inspired this book.  I just wish that the events in this story would have been changed so that it didn't so closely mirror the actual events.

I received a review copy of this book from Recorded Books via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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review 2016-08-22 15:31
Afterward - Jennifer Mathieu

This novel wasn’t what I expected and I think in the end, it provided for me a deeper perspective on the issues at hand and a comfort that I wasn’t expecting.   I was expecting answers as I read this novel, I wanted to know the gist of the damage that these individuals had to endure living with their kidnapper, I wanted to know their story but this novel wasn’t about reliving their drama, it was about moving forward.   Caroline wanted to know why her autistic brother Dylan had changed since he had returned and she thought only Ethan could provide those answers. He had only been missing a few days but his behavior had changed drastically. Dylan was found with Ethan both boys had been abducted; only Ethan had been missing for four years. Caroline wanted answers but the subject was hard to talk about with Ethan so she tries other ways to connect with him. Struggling with the memories, Ethan is traumatized and it shows in their relationship. I enjoyed the times when the two of them could just forget how they were connected and they could just enjoy themselves together.   Relaxing with each other, enjoying the moment and enjoying each other, they were showing their true colors and just letting go. Both of the boys don’t want to look back and relive the past but the past is a shadow that is following them, haunting them and they need to face it and move forward. I liked the energy in the novel, the grace and delicacy of the subject matter covered, the friendship and how this relationship didn’t build into something it wasn’t meant to be.   4.5 stars


This is another great novel by Jennifer Mathieu, the author that gave us both The Truth About Alice and Devoted.  I have enjoyed them all. 


I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Roaring Book Press in exchange for an honest opinion.

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review 2016-07-17 03:18
The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

I'm glad I read this. And I recommend it. But in the long run, I'm not sure it's a book that will stick with me.


In my opinion, Kurt's chapters were the best. He spent the most time with Alice, he knew her, and thus his chapters were the most complex and...I don't know, interesting. As for the other characters, I finished unsatisfied with their stories. Elaine kind of turned things around, tried to make amends. Even if it was too little, too late she tried, and I appreciated that. But Kelsie? Josh? They never apologized for their actions. I wanted more from Kelsie. And I wanted more from Josh as well.


The main thing I didn't like is that there's so much unresolved! Kelsie's family situation/aftermath of her abortion was unresolved. The romantic feelings Josh had for Brandon (or maybe I've just been reading too much m/m and reading too much into it, lol) were only slightly hinted at. It is mentioned that Elaine and her mother both have some body image issues-what ever became of that? Did Kelsie apologize? Did Josh? The only thing resolved is Alice and Kurt's relationship. Ugh, I want more!!! MORE!!!


I would've liked to see things from Alice's perspective. We hear all this stuff about her and we don't even get to see her side of the story. But maybe that's the point? Hmm...


Here's the thing though: I hated what happened to Alice. I hated the slut-shaming, the rumors, the bullying. But I didn't feel as strong of an emotional connection as I would've liked.


Tl;dr version- it's good and I do recommend it, but I don't have strong feelings about it.

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