Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. Grades 9 and up. Little Brown, November 2010. Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA. 352 pages.

Alex is a piano student at the elite boarding school Themis Academy. Themis is a little different from your average high school. There are the rigorous academics, for one, and the fact that the faculty trust Themis students to behave in an honorable way, so much so that the faculty turn their heads whenever students break the rules. When Alex is date-raped by a member of the water polo team, she feels helpless. And she knows that the only way to get justice is to enlist the help of The Mockingbirds - a clandestine student justice system. But does Alex have the strength to go through with the trial? Can she find her voice and speak up against the boy who hurt her?

I was taken in by Alex right away. The first few pages depicting her waking up after the incident had me hooked and then I hardly wanted to put it down. The first-person present-tense narrative puts you right there with Alex as she figures out what happened to her and what she can't remember - her virginity being taken while she was unconscious.

From there, it's a roller coaster of emotions as Alex contacts The Mockingbirds and learns all about how they work and why they are needed. Along the way, she gets to know Martin, a biology student, and she grapples with her mixed feelings about starting a relationship.

I loved all the details about how The Mockingbirds work - all the checks and balances built into the system, the elaborate ways they had of alerting the students to the trial's progress. I find it a little hard to believe that this elaborate system was worked out and accepted by students in the short time since Alex's sister was at the school (a matter of a few years), but I had no problem suspending my disbelief for that part of the book. 

A bit harder to believe was the fact that absolutely no adult authority figure would help Alex. While I was told over and over again that the school administration would do nothing if Alex reported the rape, but I was never shown that. After finishing the book and reading Ms. Whitney's author's note (the author was date-raped in college and successfully pressed charges even though her school's administration had a history of looking the other way), I'm more on board with the premise.

Even with my frustration at having to suspend my disbelief every time Alex decided not to go to the police, her parents, the principal, or any teachers for help, I found The Mockingbirds to be a compelling read and an important one. Every time I put it down, I'd be looking forward to picking it back up. I'd hand it to fans of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart.

Check out more reviews at Reclusive Bibliophile and Chick Loves Lit.  And mark your calendars because The Mockingbirds will be on shelves November 2.