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.
A lot of the time, date-rape can fall into a sort of gray area, as it isn’t necessarily “violent” and date rapists don’t always fit into the “alleyway thug” persona; but it’s still wrong. So when Alex Patrick is date-raped at the beginning of her junior year, she runs into a problem. In a “he said, she said” situation, should she go to the police? The school administration? Maybe she should just keep quiet and try to move on with her life.
Or, there’s the Mockingbirds, an organization that makes your typical high school student council look just plain bad. The Mockingbirds are one-part secret society, one-part student government, and one-part rebellion. It’s in interesting mix of ideas and indentities, and it’s definitely unique. Daisy Whitney gets full points for creativity here.
The author should also get recognition for her main character: Alex. With Alex, things walked right on the fine line between proactive character and damsel in distress. It’s not something that often works. Alex was strong, she made her own choices and stuck with them; but she was also a rape victim, and in some cases, she needed some serious support. Whitney, I think, did an excellent job with Alex’s character.
I also found the “trial” itself to be fascinating. Basically, the students held a little courtroom scene in the laundromat, complete with “counsel is badgering the witness” jargon and everything. Now, maybe it’s a bit difficult to imagine 15-year-old kids completely mastering the ins and outs of the American legal system, but that scene was certainly interesting.
Where The Mockingbirds and I disagreed was, well, about the Mockingbirds and how they functioned. In the back of the book, Whitney explains that, in college, she was the victim of date-rape. At the time, her university had no method of dealing with date-rape, so the admin attempted to hush things up. That wasn’t good enough for Whitney, so she and other date-rape victims launched an awareness campaign that, eventually, reaped results.
But in The Mockingbirds, Alex and the student body handle things on their own, rather than try to get adult help. Now, I very strongly believe that rapists and sex offenders belong in jail; so when Alex’s rapists was “punished” by stepping down from the water polo team, I was a bit miffed. I think he got off easy, which wouldn’t have happened if the students hadn’t decided to take the law into their own hands.
I mean, if Daisy Whitney worked hard to get recognition for her own case of date-rape from school admin and law enforcement, why, in her book, did the same not happen? I mean, yes, in a sense, the Mockingbirds took care of Alex’s rapist and he was “tried” for his crimes and “punished”, but it was all very anticlimactic and, as I said, not at all what the rapist truly deserved.
Because, “boo hoo, I stepped down from the water polo team” wasn’t enough for my intolerant little soul.
Plot: There are so many overdone plots in today's selection of young adult books. I have never read or heard of any similar to this, so it was a breath of fresh air. (I'm just full of product slogans today. First Nike, now Febreze!) It makes a lot of sense with how society is, blaming the girl for the way she dressed or that she didn't fight back enough, that Alex didn't feel comfortable reporting it to the police.
There were a few slow spots and not many twists and turns, but the plot was pretty straight forward.
I was disappointed by what happened to Carter at the end, but the ending over all was pretty good.
Characters: Alex wasn't my favorite main character of all time, but she was still a pretty good one.
Carter. He's a jerk. Not only does he rape her (twice), but he tells everyone that she was begging for it. UGH, the words I want to use to describe him.
I fell completely and utterly in love with Martin on page 291. When asked how he spent his weekend, he responded:
"Wrote half of my paper on barn owls, watched hockey. My Buffalo Sabres lost. I know that breaks your heart too."
Where can I sign up to marry this wonderful boy whose heart breaks when his hockey team loses? Overall though, he's a great character. I loved him before I got to this page, if that says anything.
There's a bit of tension between her two best friends, which draws a bit of attention throughout the book, but never really plays out to much.
Overall: I love when authors are able to use real life experiences in their writing. Ned Vizzini spent time in a mental hospital, so he wrote It's Kind of a Funny Story about a kid in a mental hospital. Daisy Whitney was raped and went through a similar process that Alex did to find justice. I mean, it's a horrible thing, but I think it gives more insight to the situations going on in the book when the author has been through the things going on in the book.
I cannot stress enough how much you should read this book ASAP. I will warn you that there is the occasional strong language and a few graphic scenes as she recalls what happened the night she was raped.
I just really loved this book, in case you haven't picked up on that yet.
In THE MOCKINGBIRDS the reader encounters Alex and Martin and the case of date rape at Themis Academy that led her to seek vigilante justice through the student led organization since the faculty and staff (mostly) turn a blind eye to students asking for help. Themis believes nothing bad could possibly happen among their overachieving students, so The Mockingbirds were born to handle cases.
In THE RIVALS Alex returns, having survived her previous case, she is elected the head of The Mockingbirds. But, just as the school year begins, Alex is tested by a group of students who are using prescription drugs to cheat. With no clear victim (other than the entire school), and a mysterious RIVAL group of vigilante students seeking to compete with The Mockingbirds, Alex is tested in every friendship and relationship and truth she thinks she knew from Book 1.
Not only is the story enjoyable as a reader, as a writer I also enjoyed the structuring Whitney has deftly built up in THE MOCKINGBIRDS and just as carefully unravels throughout THE RIVALS in a breathtaking deconstruction of the prep-school world of Themis Academy.
Date Rape is a serious topic, handled so expertly by Whitney in THE MOCKINGBIRDS, I appreciated how this provides another layer to the current case of prescription drug abuse as means for students to cross moral and ethical lines of cheating. For Alex, she is still regaining her ground after facing her attacker and holding him accountable for raping her. Whitney shows that surviving something as life altering as that is not easily done. Alex is completely relatable as a character, who must sacrifice everything to stand up to the injustice of THE RIVALS.