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.
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Emotional and gripping, The Mockingbirds is a stunning blend of a horrible situation and a private school set up. Opening the morning after Alex is date-raped, Whitney hits the reader with intrigue and a connection from the start. The sense of helplessness, blame and guilt many victims often feel are carried throughout the book, portraying with gutting realism how easily one event can seep into and taint everything else in the victim’s life. With a steadily paced plot and undercurrents of seriousness without being constantly overbearing to keep a still light nature, this is a great read for many ages.
The Extended Version:
Alex is an incredibly realistic teenage character with a succinct voice. There is a very obvious dissonance between the girl she was before the incident and who she found herself becoming after. A big part of her struggle and development was finding a way to unite the two parts and Whitney does a remarkable job handling this. Alex is bold in a way unknown to herself and a free thinker with a very strong mind. She shows tremendous personal growth throughout the book, both as a result of the date-rape and in response to other events and people.
There are several supporting characters throughout this book, from Alex’s roommates/best friends to the Mockingbirds to Carter and his friends, Whitney has built a strong set of people who help carry the book in a bold way. Even small characters fill big roles and many hold their own quirks and reasons to stay memorable. The alliances are cast in stunning ways and secrets about several characters have lasting, striking impacts.
Whitney’s writing ability is one of the most notable aspects of this book, strengthening not only the characters but the plot as well. She has some clever and unique ways to describe things, straying from usual euphemisms, analogies and mannerisms. Her writing is fluid and holds hints of lyricism and Whitney infuses a surprisingly easy blend of teenage with forced adult in Alex’s mentality and voice. In the midst of the pain, fear and frustration Alex finds in her situation, there are subtle thoughts and phrases that remind the reader- and maybe Alex herself- she is still in high school.
Also noteworthy is how boldly the entire situation plays out. Even after finding the strength to start standing up not only for herself but other girls, Alex still questions and second guesses not only her current actions but those of that night. The simplest event or thought will suddenly transport her back to that night and as the book progresses, Alex gets back more bits and pieces of that night. The reader is as constantly reminded of what has transpired as Alex is, painfully and brutally forced back even in the simplest and happiest of times. Her view of herself is damaged and the overall list of things impacted and ways she needs to change her way of thinking continues to grow throughout the book.
Pushing The Mockingbirds even further is the vigilante nature of the group. At a school that holds its students to such a high standard of perfection the students can seemingly do wrong, justice and a code of conduct fall through the cracks. Whitney blends a student judicial system into the novel seamlessly, even making it open as public knowledge. The overall system is remarkably well thought out and put together and unfolds to the reader at a steady pace. The strong tie-ins of music, Shakespeare, science, To Kill A Mockingbird, and many other notable aspects also help to build the overall world.
Whitney has packed a powerful punch with this book, keeping enough gripping detail and emotion to make her strong point to the reader while offering plenty of relief and enjoyment as well. While some scenes are lighthearted, others are gutting and portray with a raw realism the horror of not only experiencing and remembering such an event but other outcomes and lashings as a result. She has done a fantastic job blending rough and harsh with sweet and naïve, and strengthens everything with her bold, inherent writing ability, the small twists and steady flashbacks, and distinct, memorable characters. The Mockingbirds will remind readers what it’s like to be alone, seemingly without options and scared- and to push past that and take a stand.
Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 2, 2010)