Everyone (literally) in the small town (pop. 3,000) of Healey, Texas, knows the truth about Alice Franklin. Well, they know what's been determined by the collective consciousness of the town's population as the truth, which is virtually the same thing. Everyone believes it, so it must be so. Everyone treats Alice as if it's true, so the end result is the same.
So what is it that everyone knows? Four narrators take turns gradually revealing that, at the final party of summer before their junior year of high school, Alice, who already had a bit of a reputation, had sex with two guys at the same party. Two weeks later she lustily texted one of them, the school's star quarterback, while he was driving, leading to his death when he wrecked his car. A few months later, she had an abortion. This is what everyone agrees is the truth about Alice. She is a slut and murderer.
As the four narrators tell this tale, they can't help revealing things about themselves. There is queen bee Elaine, who hosted the party. Kelsie, who was Alice's best friend until after the party. Josh, who was Brandon's best friend until he died. And Kurt, social outcast due to academic nerdiness and no desire to fit in. They reveal the things they "know" about Alice--the things they despise about Alice--are the things they worry most about in themselves. It's easier for them to deal with their fears and insecurities and shame when they can assign them to someone else, place them on an easy target. Sometimes they know they are making "convenient" choices, sometimes they don't even realize they are lying. As narrators, though, they are as unreliable as the "truth" about Alice. Because, as so often happens in reality, this "truth" has been constructed by these storytellers and their community. "Truth" is merely perception and agreed-upon belief, repeated enough times until it is unquestioned.
This book captures that marvelously. 4.5 stars.