Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

November 2, 2010; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary

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. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

A beautiful, powerful book. The Mockingbirds takes Alex Patrick on a journey from one of the lowest, most terrifying, humiliating points imaginable to a slow, gradual recovery and a possibility of empowerment. Alex wakes up one morning naked in a strange bed with Carter, a boy she barely knows, with no memory of what happened the night before. When Carter boastfully tells her they had sex twice, she's confused, scared, and embarrassed. She stumbles back to her dorm, unsure of what to do. As snippets of memories come back to her, she realizes she was raped. But she does nothing. She doesn't tell the police or her parents. Only her best friends and her sister. They convince her to take the case to The Mockingbirds, the underground student disciplinary system. If convicted, the entire school will recognize Carter for the monster he is and bring some redemption to Alex.

The Mockingbirds will inevitably be compared to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. In fact, I'm mentally comparing the books as I write this review. The Mockingirds is an emotional, hard-hitting book, but in a different way than Speak. It doesn't have Speak's bare-boned prose which created that book's raw feeling. Instead, The Mockingbirds is awash in description. Alex's flashbacks are sensory experiences. The reader lives through Alex's terrible ordeal not only through the rape itself, but also by being immersed in what Alex saw, what she smelled, what she tasted, what she heard. Nothing is left unaffected.

Alex is a likeable character. She makes several bad choices throughout the book, but nothing out of the realm of normal teenage decision-making. We experience the aftermath of her rape - how her life becomes ruled by fear and guilt. At the same time (and different than Speak), there are happier moments in this book. Alex has a great set of friends in T.S., Maia, Amy and a protective sister Casey. I especially loved Martin. There aren't enough nerdy, sweet guys in YA lit. Alex's friends strengthen her and their different personalities add depth and occasional moments of levity to the novel. Alex is a dedicated musician and while the rape even manages to sink its teeth into her beloved music, it doesn't wrest it completely away from her. It's nice to see Alex have something else in her life.

Many reviews criticize The Mockingbirds for not involving the police or the school in the "prosecution" of Carter. I agree that this should have been done, but I think it reflects the fact that rape is so rarely reported to authorities in real life. I also disliked the fact that Alex's school was so laissez faire about its students and discipline. I found it very hard to believe. Regardless, it makes for a great plot component. The adults luckily weren't all bad in this novel.

I loved the idea of The Mockingbirds, even if it was a tad unrealistic. I loved the guerilla tactics the group used to ensure compliance with its system of judgment. I loved how the leaders supported and protected Alex, forming a cocoon around her until she had the strength to grow her wings, so to speak, and stand up to Carter.

The Mockingbirds had a few first-book mistakes. There were some plot elements - particularly Alex's senior project - that were built-up and then practically forgotten. I also thought the functionality of The Mockingbirds could have been developed a little more, although the reader learns enough for the story to make sense.

***Spoiler: Highlight text to view***

The biggest emotional moments of this book were both toward the end. I was horrified when Alex "realized" she hadn't been raped after all and had been a willing participant. I was so relieved that she was told and came to truly feel that "no" is no and nothing after that matters.


And I was overwhelmed by the ending. What a sense of empowerment to be named the leader of The Mockingbirds. Alex went from the bottom to the top. I cried tears of happiness on Alex's behalf. The conclusion was incredibly satisfying.

***End Spoiler***

The Mockingbirds is an unforgettable book of pain, love, hate, friendship, mistakes, and redemption. Through Daisy Whitney's beautiful, skillful prose, words fly off the page and the reader lives, breathes, and feels Alex's ordeal. I can't wait to read Daisy's next book.

Rating: 4 / 5

12 comments:

  1. I read this book last year and had a lot of the same feelings about it as you. I really liked the book and the fact that it didn't shame the victim, rather it empowered her. I agree, though, that some things were a bit unrealistic. Great review :0) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    The Book Life

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  2. This book has been on my wishlist for ages, but as more and more new exciting books get released it seems to be moving further down the list. After reading your great review I'm definitely going to bump it back up :)

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  3. This book has been on my TBR list for awhile. I think I need to move it higher up on the list!

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  4. I have this book, sitting patiently for me to read. I think I'm going to have to read it soon. I hate that I have so many books I want to right at this moment. Great post!

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  5. An unforgettable book? Yes, please! I don't think I've read any reviews for this one as yet - I'm really excited for it now! Thanks, Alison :)

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  6. I loved Speak! So I must read this! I loved how the book is powerful! Thanks for the review!

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  7. Hmmm.. Seems like I've read extremely negative reviews of this book. I remember one in particular that turned me off, and I think what you touch on, the unrealistic aspect, is what did it, but your review has me reconsidering. Thanks for your objectivity. Very helpful.

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  8. I enjoyed Mockingbirds and was one of those who felt that the lack of adults or authorities hindered my appreciation for it. I also thought the subplot of the romance didn't really add anything to the story but I did like the idea of students helping each other out in difficult situations. Did you know that the book was inspired by the author's real life experiences in college?

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  9. Outstanding review Alison, I've heard this book is really intense and emotional. I can definitely see how the lack of school involvement and authority involvement in pursuing Alex's case would be a bit problematic, but everything else sounds brilliantly done'

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  10. Thanks for the review! I've read a lot of negative reviews for this one and they turned me off reading the book even though I was initially interested in it. I might just give it a try at some point now though. :)

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  11. I had a hard time with this book. I like aspects of it, but the lack of realism at parts turned me off a good bit. I gave it a pretty good review, but I dunno if I feel the same now. Great review, Alison :)

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  12. I've read negative reviews of this as well.I have the book on my TBR shelf and have often though of reading it...your review makes me really want to try it. As for unrealistic that's why it's called fiction. However, I agree with you that many rapes go unreported. There was recently a case of rape either at a high school or college where the teachers and parents took that laissez fare attitude. The accused were sports stars and the girl was in the school band. The incident happened during an away. The side of the sports stars were taken as the they "could do no wrong" attitude. Sad there wasn't a Mockingbird group on campus. Great review!!

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