Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Title: The Mockingbirds
Author: Daisy Whitney

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 2, 2010)
Source: My Choice; Library

From GoodReads:

Some schools have honor codes.

Others have handbooks.

Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

The Mockingbirds not a book to be taken lightly. Readers know from the very beginning that this is going to be a tough read. Alex wakes up in a room that isn't hers, naked, with a boy she doesn't really know asleep beside her. Her only clue as to what happened are two condom wrappers on the top of the trash. When the boy, Carter, wakes up, he confirms her worst fears. They had sex. But she can't remember it, and she can't remember saying yes.

What follows is a heart-wrenching story of love and loss and pain. Alex really wants to pretend that nothing happened, at least at first. She wants the nightmare to just go away. But, she can't ignore it. And, since she feels like there are no adults at Themis Academy who will help her, she turns to the one group she knows will do what it takes to see justice done - an underground group of students dedicated to righting wrongs - The Mockingbirds.

Ms. Whitney writes The Mockingbirds with startling honesty. Alex goes through every emotion on the planet as she comes to grips with what has happened to her - shame, anger, rage, guilt - they're all there, and captured perfectly in Alex's voice. Alex is not self-assured 100% of the time, but she's also not a pushover.

I think books like this are important to read for many reasons. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, things like this happen all too often in the world. And, girls often feel shame and guilt because they didn't say or do the "right" things or they feel like they are leading boys on, etc. What The Mockingbirds shows is that rape is rape - if you don't say yes, then something is wrong. But, unlike the local high school health class, The Mockingbirds tells that truth without being preachy or too in your face.

The only issue I have with The Mockingbirds is how no one forces Alex to go to the authorities. While I understand that is the point of the book, I worry that it could send the wrong message to some girls in the same situation. What the mock trial in the book does is so similar to what would happen in a real court, and that is important. I just don't like the idea of telling adults to be downplayed too much. I was so glad when Alex finally confided in a teacher, because then I felt like at least someone who wasn't her own age knew what was going on and could guide her correctly.

Look for The Rivals, the next book in the Mockingbird story, in early 2012.

Final thoughts: Borrow and encourage girls in your life to read it.

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