Four high-school juniors—Elaine, Kelsie, Josh, and Kurt—narrate the eponymous Alice's story in turns. A callous jock named Brandon starts a rumor that Alice slept with him and another boy at Elaine's party. Shortly afterward, he dies in a car crash, and Josh suggests that texts from Alice distracted Brandon. These rumors take on a life of their own, transforming Alice from a well-liked girl into a cafeteria pariah with a "Slut Stall" dedicated to her in the girls' bathroom. Mathieu's well-crafted debut portrays all the teens sympathetically, revealing the insecurities that motivate their actions; for example, Kelsie thinks the popular girls "could smell my old middle school nerdiness on me like it was some kind of disease," and would rather betray her best friend than lose her newfound popularity. Their accounts unintentionally reveal Alice's decency, emphasizing the cruelty of the ostracism and underscoring the integrity of the one boy who dares to befriend her. Alice gets the final word, yet Mathieu avoids reducing her story to a revenge narrative, instead offering a quietly powerful testament to perspective and personal resilience. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah LaPolla, Bradford Literary Agency. (June)
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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.
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Praise for The Truth about Alice:
“Fans of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Speechless by Hannah Harrington will welcome first time author Mathieu, who has crafted a realistic and hard-hitting debut.” VOYA, starred review
“A tough, unapologetic look at slut-shaming from a promising new voice.” Booklist
“Swift pace and compact size may entice reluctant readers as well as those interested in a juicy yet thoughtful take on human dynamics.” BCCB
“Debut author Mathieu brings new life to a common girls' narrative through her multiple first-person narrators.” Kirkus Reviews
“Each narrator shares elements of culpability for the rumors and mistreatment of Alice, and teens are introduced to the potential damage that rumors and lies bring.” School Library Journal
“Alice gets the final word, yet Mathieu avoids reducing her story to a revenge narrative, instead offering a quietly powerful testament to perspective and personal resilience.” Publisher's Weekly
Gr 9 Up—Healy, Texas, is a small town where everyone knows each other's business, and the scandals that unfold around Alice Franklin are no exception. The book is told from alternating points of view, and four of Alice's classmates provide accounts of heavy drinking and rumors about Alice's promiscuity. Readers are told that the title character had sex with two boys at the same party, sent obsessive texts that led to the death one of the boys, and had an abortion. As the story unfolds, Alice is called a slut and a skank, is abandoned by her best friend, is ostracized by everyone, and endures a "slut stall" in the girl's bathroom filled with derogatory graffiti. As more is revealed, each narrator shares elements of culpability for the rumors and mistreatment of Alice, and teens are introduced to the potential damage that rumors and lies bring. Though certain participants in the rumor mill feel bad and readers get the sense that Alice heals from the horrible events while developing a meaningful relationship, the treatment of such serious topics is cursory at best. Mathieu skims the harmful topics of slut-shaming, rumors, and lies in a way that places this title in the ranks of books like the "Gossip Girl" series by Cecily von Ziegesar (Little, Brown) as opposed to more thought-provoking titles like The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (Little, Brown, 2010).—Adrienne L. Strock, Chicago Public Library
Jealousy, rumors and lies can ruin a teen girl's life.In the summer before junior year at Healy High School, Alice Franklin was one of the girls popular enough to be invited to Elaine O'Dea's party. That night, Alice supposedly slept with both high school quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons and college guy Tommy Cray. Just after homecoming, Brandon dies in a car accident, allegedly while texting with Alice. Debut author Mathieu brings new life to a common mean girls' narrative through her multiple first-person narrators. Readers first hear Alice's story from Elaine, the queen bee of the junior class. Then Kelsie Sanders enters as Alice's best friend, who is willing to cast her aside to maintain her own tenuous place in the social hierarchy. Two boys also get to tell their sides of the story: Josh Waverly, Brandon's best friend, who has secrets of his own, and Kurt Morelli, nerd extraordinaire, who's been secretly obsessed with Alice for years. Due to the novel's short length, the rotating narrators and a few questionable word choices, some characters border on caricatures in places. When readers finally hear directly from Alice in the book's last chapter, they may wonder why the author took so long to introduce arguably the most interesting voice in the book.A quick if unoriginal read saved by a realistic ending. (Fiction. 13-18)
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Read an Excerpt
The Truth About Alice
By Jennifer Mathieu
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2014 Jennifer Mathieu
All rights reserved.
I, Elaine O'Dea, am going to tell you two definite, absolute, indisputable truths.
1. Alice Franklin slept with two guys in the very same night in a bed IN MY HOUSE this past summer, just before the start of junior year. She slept with one and then, like five minutes later, she slept with the other one. Seriously. And everybody knows about it.
2. Two weeks ago — just after Homecoming — one of those guys, Brandon Fitzsimmons (who was crazy super popular and gorgeous and who yours truly messed around with more than once) died in a car accident. And it was all Alice's fault.
The other guy Alice slept with was this college guy, Tommy Cray, who used to go to Healy High. I'll get to Healy in a minute, and Brandon dying, too, but first, I should probably tell you about Alice.
It's weird, because Alice Franklin doesn't sound like a slutty name. It sounds like the name of a girl who takes really super good Chem notes or volunteers at the Healy Senior Center on Friday nights passing out punch and cookies or whatever it is they do at the Healy Senior Center on a Friday night. Speaking of old people, Alice sounds like a total grandma name. Like tissues-tucked-in-the-sleeves I-can't-find-my-purse what-time-is-Jeopardy!-on-again grandma. But that's totally not Alice Franklin. Hell no.
Because Alice Franklin is a slut.
She's not overtly slutty looking or whatever, but her look could go either way. She's a little taller than average but not freakishly tall, and I totally admit she has a really good figure. She never has to worry about her weight. Maybe her mom makes her count Weight Watchers points with her like mine does, but then again I don't think so, because Alice's mom doesn't seem to care that the entire town thinks her daughter is a total ho. I don't know if Alice's dad would care because Alice hasn't had a dad for as long as I've known her. Which is forever.
Alice has short hair that's cut sort of pixie-style, and she's one of those girls with naturally full lips. She always, always has raspberry-colored lipstick and lip liner on. Her face is standard pretty. She has multiple piercings in both ears, but she's not weird or punk or whatever; I guess she just likes a lot of earrings. In fact, she kind of dresses up for school. Or at least she did before all of this went down. She liked to wear pencil skirts and tight tops which showed off her boobs, and she'd always have on these open-toed sandals that showed off her raspberry toenails. Like even in February.
After it all happened, it's like she didn't care what she looked like. At first she came to school dressed all normal, but lately she's been showing up in jeans and a sweatshirt with the hood up lots of the time. She still wears the lipstick, though, which I find weird.
She hasn't ever been super crazy popular like me (I know that comes out conceited, but it's just the truth), but she's never been like that freak show Kurt Morelli who has an IQ of 540 and never talks to anyone except the teachers. If you're thinking of popularity as an apartment building, somebody like me is sitting on the roof of the penthouse, the band geeks are sleeping on the floor in the basement, and that freak show Kurt Morelli isn't living in the building at all. And I guess Alice Franklin has spent most of her life on some middle floor somewhere, but on the top of the middle.
So she was cool enough to come to my party.
You need to understand that this thing with Alice sleeping with two guys and Brandon dying in a car accident are the two biggest things to go down in Healy in a really super crazy long time. I don't mean just big with the kids who go to Healy High. I mean big with like everyone. You know how there's this whole world that exists only to teenagers, and adults never know what's going on there? I think even the adults are aware of this phenomenon. Even they realize that they don't know what a certain word means or why a certain show is popular or like how they always get so excited to show you a YouTube video with a cat sneezing that you already saw twenty hundred years ago or whatever.
But Alice sleeping with two guys and then Brandon dying have become part of the whole world of Healy. Moms have talked about it with other moms at meetings of the Healy Boosters, they've asked their daughters about it, and they've looked at Alice's mom in the grocery store with a look that's always, "I feel so sorry for you, you terrible, terrible mother." (I know this because my mother has done all these things, including staring at Alice's mother in the dairy aisle while looking for some fat-free pudding she'd heard about at a Weight Watchers meeting. The pudding was only two points, so of course my mother was nuts for it.)
And this thing about Brandon dying is even crazier because he was Brandon Fitzsimmons, King of Healy, Texas. Quarterback and totally handsome and funny and everybody knew him. The dads have been talking about it at meetings of the Healy Boosters and in line at the Auto Zone, and they shake their heads and say what a damn shame it is that Brandon Fitzsimmons had to die in a car accident just a few weeks into football season. (I know this because my father has done all of these things, including wondering out loud why that Alice Franklin Slut, as he put it, had to go and mess up Healy's best chance at the 3A State Championship since he played for the Tigers back in, like, 1925.)
Football is enormous in Healy, but Healy itself is not. It's basically the kind of place that is just far enough away from the city that it can't really be considered a suburb, but it's not big enough to be considered much more than just a small town. There are two grocery stores, three drugstores, and, like, five billion churches located in strip malls. The movie theater shows one movie at a time, so you never get a new one, and the big thing to do on the weekends if you're under twenty is go get fast food and beers and park in the Healy High parking lot and talk shit about people or hope that someone's parents go out of town so you can have a party. Most people either love it here and never plan on leaving, or they hate it here and can't wait to go.
Healy isn't as bad as it sounds. I know it's totally lame that the biggest store is a Walmart and we have to drive an hour and ten minutes to go to a real mall, but still, I love it. I guess, yeah, it's all I know, but I love walking into almost any store in town and people know me and smile at me, and they ask me about my mom and dad and they ask me if I'm on the varsity dance squad this year (yes) and if I'm planning on being on the junior prom committee (yes) and if I think Healy has a chance at state (always). And the things I do seem to be the things that everyone else at Healy High wants to do. Like when my girlfriends and I were freshmen and we started using toothpicks to write letters on our nails with fingernail polish, so we could spell out ten-digit messages like I AM SO CUTE! and SCHOOL SUX! In about a week practically every other freshman girl at Healy High was copying us.
But back to Alice Franklin.
In the movies, high school parties are always these huge, crazy events with five hundred kids jammed into one house and naked people jumping from the roof into the pool, but in reality, high school parties are nothing like this. At least not in Healy. Healy parties basically consist of people sitting around the living room drinking, texting each other from across the room, watching television, and every once in a while someone goes into the kitchen to get another beer. Sometimes two people will go upstairs to one of the bedrooms and everyone makes a joke about it, and around midnight or 1 a.m. people pass out on the couch or go home.
Not so exciting sounding, I know, but I suppose what makes them exciting is the possibility that one of these nights, at one of these parties, something will happen.
And I guess that something did.CHAPTER 2
The night of Elaine O'Dea's party, I was throwing up and had a fever of 102.
So I didn't go.
This was truly an epic emergency in my eyes because despite being almost a junior in high school, the old Kelsie from Flint was not completely dead and buried inside of me yet. Back when I lived in Michigan, I was a nerd. A nothing. A nobody. In Healy I am popular, and this blows my mind, and I guess the night of the party there was this part of me that was sure that if I missed even one opportunity to remind everyone of my social standing, I would be kicked back to the solitary cafeteria table of doom, destined to live out the rest of my high school days completely on my own. I would have to give up the fun that came with being part of this super elite club where there was no secret handshake or door knock, but there was still plenty to make it worthwhile.
I mean, to be totally honest, it's not like I'm on the very top rung of the social ladder like Elaine O'Dea and her crew, but if for whatever reason Elaine O'Dea and her friends are ever unable to perform their duties as the Most Popular Girls at Healy High, I am happy to be part of that Most Popular Girls Runners-Up group that is totally available to step in. And even as a runner-up I have privileges. Like ... the feeling I get when I walk into the cafeteria and I know I can sit anywhere I want and people will always want to sit with me, and the fact that I know the teachers will already know my name on the first day of school without me having to tell them, and the fun in not worrying for even one second about whether or not I will have people to hang out with on the weekends. I always have people to hang out with on the weekends. Or anytime. Texting, talking, calling, drinking, kissing, laughing, dancing, drinking, texting, talking, and drinking. And I'm right in the middle of all of it.
I've seen the other side of things back in Flint, and I am here to tell you that being popular is awesome.
But I was so sick the night of Elaine's party, I didn't even pretend there was a chance I could show up. I just clutched the rim of the toilet bowl and cursed to myself as I thought about Elaine and Alice and Josh and Brandon and everybody sitting around together, and me not being a part of everything.
I hated not being a part of things. I hated missing things.
As it turns out, I did miss something. I missed The Thing that everyone would talk about all year long, and I knew I'd missed it the next morning as I ate dry toast and sipped ginger ale and listened to my best friend Alice Franklin on the other end of the phone.
"Tell me the truth, has anyone texted you about it?" Alice said, her voice low and serious. If it had been me, I would have been crying. But Alice wasn't crying. Not yet.
"I just got, like, one text about it." In reality I had gotten three texts, but I didn't see the point in telling this to Alice. The first text had been from this crazy sophomore who prides herself on spreading gossip, and it said:
Alice did Tommy Cray AND Brandon F. at Elaine's party. OMG.
My stomach sort of gurgled a little when I read the text, and it wasn't from the stomach flu. It was mostly because of what it said about Alice, but it was also because it mentioned Tommy Cray, who I hadn't even realized was going to be at the party. I guess it was one last hurrah for him before going back to college for his sophomore year, but any mention of Tommy Cray and I'm forced to think about The Really Awful Stuff that happened to me last summer. No one knows about it. Not even Alice.
"Kelsie, it isn't true. You know it isn't true. I don't know why the hell Brandon is telling people this shit. Nothing happened! We were hanging out at the party and he tried to mess around, and I was sort of buzzed and told him I didn't want to, and then I left. Nothing happened! You believe me, don't you?"
"Of course I believe you," I said.
And I did.
But I also didn't.
Honestly, I didn't know what to believe.
Which I guess should sort of tell you something about Alice Franklin. I mean, there was that time she lied to me about what she did with the lifeguard at Healy Pool North. And everyone still talks about what happened between her and Brandon and Elaine back in eighth grade. She had to know everyone was going to remember that. Maybe that was why I could sort of hear panic in her voice even if she was trying really hard to play it cool.
And to be honest, maybe I started to panic, too. I think right then I started to wonder if being Alice Franklin's best friend might spell trouble for me. I mean, if people didn't think what she'd done was a big deal, it would be okay. Probably. But what if it upped the slut factor so much that people started thinking I was a slut by association? I mean, it was one thing to be a girl who'd had sex. But it was something else entirely to be a girl who'd had sex with two guys in one night.
But I had to at least pretend to believe Alice. She'd been my first friend in Healy and my ticket into the world of social acceptance, and at first I wasn't sure how the party rumor would be received. It's true. If you haven't realized it, I'm aiming for truth here. Total honesty. And if the party rumor hadn't turned Alice into this kind of weird pariah from the first day of school on, it would have been easy to decide what to do. Even if the rumors did involve Tommy Cray, it would have been simple to choose to stay friends with her. I would have just gone along with what everybody wanted. But honestly, if what Alice did (or maybe didn't) do had been held up as some great achievement by everyone at Healy High, I would have still hung out with her. If everyone still liked her, I would have still liked her, too.
I know I sound like the worst person on Earth. I'm totally owning that.
It's like when we read The Diary of Anne Frank in seventh grade, and I had the sneaking suspicion that I would have been a Nazi back then because I wouldn't have had the guts to be anything else. Because I would have been too scared to not go along with the majority. Like, I would have been a passive sort of Nazi, but I still would have been a Nazi. I never said anything out loud, of course, but I remember reading that book in Ms. Peterson's class and everyone was all, "Oh, I would've helped Anne. I would have rebelled. I don't understand how people could have allowed this to happen, blah blah blah." I mean, I know that everyone wants to believe they would have been the brave one, and they would have been the one to hide Anne in their attic, and they would have killed Hitler with their own bare hands. But clearly if everybody thinks that way and in reality only a few people actually did it way back then, doesn't that just make me the honest one?
Anyway, the party was at the very end of the summer, and we'd only been back at school for a little while when Brandon died. The accident happened just a few weeks ago, right after Homecoming. And that was when stuff started getting really nuts because Brandon's best friend Josh Waverly, who had been in the car with Brandon when the accident happened, told Brandon's mom that the crash had been Alice's fault. Things were bad for Alice before the accident, but then it became like this whole other epic level of bad.
Alice called me crying about the car accident rumor, and I told her I was so sorry, and I was sure it wasn't true. When she called me after that I just didn't answer. She didn't call me all last week, and maybe she never will again. A few times she called and I answered and then acted like my mom wanted me to help make dinner or something. Once, back at the very beginning of the year before things got really bad and before Brandon died, she asked me to hang out with her and watch corny musicals at her house like we did back in ninth grade, and then when the weekend came I told her I was sick, but it was actually because Elaine O'Dea had invited me and some other girls over to her house. Like I'm going to turn down Elaine O'Dea to hang out with (allegedly) the biggest slut in the school?
Excerpted from The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Mathieu. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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