Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Rivals by Daisy Whitney

The Rivals (Mockingbirds #2) by Daisy Whitney
February 6, 2012; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers


When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected. (courtesy of Goodreads)


The Mockingbirds was one of my favorite books of 2011 so I eagerly picked up the sequel, The Rivals, as soon as it was released. The Rivals was good...but not as good as The Mockingbirds.

The world of The Mockingbirds was largely black and white. We knew who the good guys were and we knew who the bad guys were. It wasn't quite that simple, but for the most part, it was clear. The villains and the heroes is much less clear in The Rivals. A massive drug ring designed to improve academic performance is spreading through the school. So many people are involved, or appear to be involved, that it's not easy to pin down a defendant to put on trial in front of The Mockingbirds. Or whether a trial should be held at all.

As frustrating as the ethical murkiness of this book was, I loved its complexity. The leaders of The Mockingbirds seemed all knowing from Alex's perspective last year. Now as the leader, she is beset by indecision. Not only that, but she has to deal with disagreements within her counsel and difficult personalities. I hated seeing Alex struggling so much, but part of me was thinking that this was an incredible preparation for real life. I admire Daisy Whitney for portraying The Mockingbirds so realistically.

Alex continues to be a fascinating character. She is still struggling with the after effects of her date rape from the previous year. I like that Daisy chose to keep it part of Alex's psyche, since the trauma of such an event doesn't just disappear. In many ways, Alex grew more this year than she did last year. She had to choose between what was right and what was easy, which was especially difficult because what she thought was right might actually be wrong. I also liked that Alex didn't always make the right choices and had to deal with them.

Martin, Alex's boyfriend is still a strong character. He is hard to like in this book. He challenges Alex on many of her decisions about the drug ring. Not unfairly, but as a reader I was always rooting for Alex, so it frustrated me. One of my main criticisms of this book is that Daisy chose the oft-repeated second book plot point of a love triangle. As a result, Martin often appears to be a jealous boyfriend. He acts like any teenage boy would act if his girlfriend was spending an awful lot of time with another guy, but I missed my sweet, nerdy Martin from the first book. Still, he is predominantly a good and kind guy.

I think Daisy is a great writer, but the excellence of her prose didn't stand out as much in this book. I'm not exactly sure why. I think it was partly because she described the psychological impact of date rape in a way that felt almost three dimensional in the first book and there wasn't an opportunity to have such detailed description in The Rivals. I also disliked the love triangle element mentioned above. Even moreso because the plot angle seemed to fizzle away abruptly at the end of the book, like she couldn't figure out what to do with it and just decided to ignore it. The passivity of the adults at Themis Academy became so apparent as to be blatantly unbelievable in this book as well. In fact, it was no longer passivity - it was knowing inactivity.

The Rivals is a good book. It isn't as special as The Mockingbirds, but the challenges Alex and her board faced were in some ways more difficult. How Alex responded to challenges from her board, her classmates, and her best friends showed what kind of leader she was. Plus the mystery of "who-dunnit" was surprising, with plenty of twists and turns I didn't expect. I would definitely recommend you check out The Rivals!

Rating: 3.5 / 5


  1. I can't stand it when you read the first book and it was so good! Your favorite then you read the next and not as good. Then I think maybe I held it too high up on the list. LOL Great review thanks I will be putting Mockingbirds on my list then see about The Rivals. Thanks

  2. I haven't read the first one yet, but from what I get from the reviews about Rival is that Mockingbird is a must-read! IT's really sad when a sequel cannot live up to the awesomness that was the first book but I'm still happy you ended up liking it! Honestly, I am not good with simple black and white topics, there are always grey zones and I like when authors are exploren them.

  3. I think the complexity plus the Martin/Alex awesomeness made this book better for me. While it didn't feel as personal and impactful as the plot in The Mockingbirds, because it was Alex's trial, I loved seeing Alex get to work and how difficult cases actually are when you're an insider in the Mockingbirds as opposed to what an outsider might think. There wasn't a love triangle at all, really, but just a touch of temptation and one that you can kind of see coming from a mile away, and I was GLAD that Daisy addressed this and put it to rest. Martin had some valid points and now that they're growing deeper into their relationship, I feel like his concerns and his jealousies were well-handled and... real. We got to see his imperfect side and never once did he force the issue, but made his concerns, his hurts known. I think I ended up liking Martin WAY more in The Rivals.

    It's so interesting to see a second opinion that's not necessarily the opposite of mine, but there are a few points we don't agree. I didn't see it the way you did, and that made your review interesting!

  4. I absolutely loved the Mockingbirds! I'm glad you did too. I haven't had a chance to buy Rivals yet, but i want to soon. I'm interested to see how the shady business in this book works out and see how Martin and the other characters changed. Your review was wonderful!

  5. Great review I've had the Mockingbirds in my wishlist for a while I really have to get to that one I don't think I've seen anyone say they didn't like it. Too bad that this wasn't just as good but it still sounds like you enjoyed it!

  6. This series is new to me, but the premise of the books sound great. I do often find that the sequel is never as great as the first. However, it sounds like there are great characters who you connected with and you gave it a 3.5, so not horrible. Thanks for sharing :)

  7. I have not read mockingbird but the storyline looks interesting. Sometimes I believe the second books in my favorite series are always let downs, only because I loved the first books so much...... :)

  8. Great review! I haven't read the first book, but I might have to check it out now. Thank you for sharing1 :)

  9. I didn't like the Mockingbirds as much as you did. The whole concept of kids ruling what is or isn't just didn't sit well with me. I'm guessing the second book wouldn't help matters much and I think I'll skip it for now. Great review!

  10. "One of my main criticisms of this book is that Daisy chose the oft-repeated second book plot point of a love triangle."

    Nooooooo! I know a love triangle adds drama, but sometimes I think a relationship that's strong and stable can be just as interesting as one that's full of emotional ups and downs. I like seeing people happy:) I guess I'm boring that way!

  11. I think the ethical complexity of this novel will make for an interesting read. I'm sure like you, I'll get frustrated at times, but I also think it will have me evaluating what I'd do and think about each situation.

    I'm done with love triangles so I'm not a fan of hearing there is one in this plot. I often feel like it is fall back for authors to put this in novels lately.

  12. I have yet to read this series but for some reason the synopsis is not capturing me as I want it to. Thanks for sharing :)

  13. You know, I have The Mockingbirds on my shelf but have never read it for whatever reason... but I am intrigued more than ever after reading this, even if you didn't think the sequel was as good. I need to read more contemporary and I am especially interested if the characters seem genuine and intriguing like Alex.

  14. I remember the wide range of reviews I read for The Mockingbirds. The vastly different options always appealed to me, yet I still haven't read the book. Sorry to hear this one didn't stand out as much for you, but it's good you still got some enjoyment out of it.

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  16. I haven't read Mockingbirds, but this sounds interesting. I read a bad review for mockingbird, and it deals with date rape, always a touchy subject that must be handled well. So I was skeptical about reading it, but now I might check it out.
    - O.ops I Read That Book!

  17. The fact that there is so much ambiguity is what sounds most interesting about this book to me. The levels of complicity and the sheer numbers involved make it tricky to determine anything. I'm behind but I definitely want to pick this one up!


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