76 pages 2 hours read

Tiffany D. Jackson


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2017

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Symbols & Motifs


Mary follows many an explanation or confession with the word “allegedly”—a legal term that must be used if guilt has not been shown. In the case of Mary, she has been convicted, but it is she who is telling the story, and so it is she who is casting doubt. Throughout the novel, it remains unclear whether Mary is in fact the one who’s taken Alyssa’s life. Through her narrative, Mary gives the reader reason to develop sympathy for her and believe she, too, is an innocent victim. The reader sits with those thoughts on many occasions, only to land next on Jackson’s carefully placed “allegedly.” One word rewinds and, in some cases, negates the previous line. The word “allegedly” consistently throws the reader off balance to cast doubt in all directions. 

Herbert the Fly

Mary refers to Herbert, the big black fly, as her house pet. As a motif he appears frequently, speaking to the conditions in which Mary lives. Mary admires Herbert’s persistence, believing they are both survivors; his tenacity is symbolic of her own. When Mary learns she will not be able to keep her baby, she simultaneously begs her mother for help and insinuates her mother is to blame for Alyssa’s death.