Struggle porn irks me.
What’s struggle porn? It’s constant pain, struggle, or hardship-marked entertainment disguised as “message opportunities”. Books, movies, t.v. shows, and music are the main platforms. Find a person, particularly one of color, and harp as much pain as you can on them with murky messages or none presented by its end.
Allegedly adds itself to the genre.
With a strong beginning and a middling middle, Tiffany Jackson presented a horrific tale of injustice, vindication, and the desire to grow with an ending that totally negates the story’s path.
Sentence to six years for a baby’s death (allegedly), Mary B. Addison struggles to determine who she is, despite others’ opinions. Did she murder the baby? What is she hiding? Is she the real monster under the closet?
She deals with a horrid justice system denying her voice since the incident. But, Mary desires better, if she’s innocent. Allegedly. She wants to take her SATs, attend college, and raise her baby. Oh, yes. She’s pregnant. We already have Push. Precious told her story. Reboots never work.
Disclaimer: I work with students living in group homes and within the juvenile system. I do not speak from inexperience. While experience varies, take my opinion as you will.
1. A good beginning swimming with vivid flashback detail. Mary’s life reeks of constant struggle from the baby’s death scene until the end, and Jackson creates pictures, egging anger from her readers.
2. Ms. Cora. Sometimes angels don’t appear as obvious tools, but when they do, embrace them.
1. The ending pulls the rug on its readers. I like bittersweet and twists. But, how about one that doesn’t insult or ruin the book? Once you reach Allegedly’s ending, you feel cheated because it requires a strong suspension of disbelief given the situation. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’m not thrilled by Jackson’s apparent gas outrun. Okay, mini-spoiler: Had the system screwed her over, I would understand and respect the ending. But, to give up for some flimsy reason? Fool me once…
2. Ted. A stereotypical love interest. He had the opportunity to be a bright spark, instead of an obvious caricature. While there real-life Teds out there, there are guys, unlike him, deserving of a story inclusion.
3. Momma. Another caricature. Spoiler…Her backstory became too implausible to believe no one looked at her first
4. Most of the characters are unlikable. Why bother? Too much depression for depression sake. Grit requires balance or else it’s struggle porn.
5. Mary’s a reactive protagonist. She almost never acts. She reacts to her environment and people. Sure, she signs up for the SATs and makes plans for her baby. Granted, the system hardens her, but even the hardest individual says “F#$k this. I’m switching gears to the best of my ability for me and my baby.” Unfortunately, others around her act on their desire stronger than she does. Makes you wonder why bother with her – a feeling I felt through the tolerable middle.
I’m angry, Tiffany. I rooted for you. We all rooted for you. If you follow America’s Next Top Model, you know the reference. I like stories with active protagonists with promise, despite the struggle ahead of them and a story with balance. Struggle porn’s not a good flavor to ping.
Want stories of active protagonists with promise, despite struggles ahead? Check out Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together.
When Michelle Obama approves, society benefits.
*This story sits unhappily…allegedly…on my bookshelf*