Release Date: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Barnes & Noble
Parental Warnings: mild sexual content (sexual assault); mention of substance abuse
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 Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds-a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.
In this account of a teenage girl’s search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight.
Everybody has been telling me to read this book all year. They say it’s incredible and that it changes the way you think. I had always had some of the flashier books on my wishlists, the explosive, tragic, romantic ones. This one is quieter, but it speaks of a conflict that should be louder than it is. I was nervous about reading this at first because I was absolutely terrified that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. A part of me was content to let it sit on my shelf so that I didn’t have to face opening it and disappointing myself. I wish I had picked it up sooner, because this book has burned itself into my mind.
I ended up staying up until 3 am to finish it, and then just lay in the dark thinking about it. My mind kept turning over passages of it, and examining them to see if I missed something because I didn’t want it to end. I was praying that somehow a fragment that I had missed would turn up and I could keep reading if only for a few seconds longer.
Alex herself is flawed, just as every teenager is. But in this book, some people try to brush off the fact that she was raped because she was the one who chose to get drunk. That isn’t consent though, and this book explores that side of it. Daisy Whitney herself was date-raped in a similar situation and so she brings another level to what I thought would just be another contemporary story similar to Just Listen. Just Listen is fantastic but this book deals with the emotional, physical, and social effects that come with the situation.
Alex didn’t eat in the cafeteria. She was willing to let herself starve rather than risk seeing Carter (her attacker) or listening to what other students were saying. Rather, her friends brought her food. Students were talking about her and judging her, but they only knew what Carter told them. He told them sick things and that she wanted it, and trashed her reputation. People knew how drunk she had been that night and took their own assumptions from that, without pausing to figure out the whole story.
Alex was strong, but fragile at the same time. She was strong in her resolve that it was wrong and she was strong in her friendships. She gave her friends no reason to doubt her. One reason I really loved the friendship in this book was that it was based on mutual trust. She trusted her friends, and they trusted her, completely. That was one of the reasons that she was able to start healing.
In other books such as Speak and Just Listen, one of the reasons that the girls didn’t feel safe and were emotionally unhealthy was because their friends abandoned them, and didn’t trust them enough to listen to their sides of the story. In a way, this book was about the friendships. Alex’s friends did anything and everything so that she could feel good again and be the Alex she was before that night.
Throughout the entire book, we saw bits and pieces of that night start to come back to Alex. Some parts are awful and raw, some reinforce her decisions while others make her doubt herself. When she wakes up at the beginning, she knows that it’s wrong that she can’t remember anything. Throughout the book, we also realize that the situation that she is in is much worse that we originally thought.
The beginning was presented so strongly to me because of this that I immediately got into the book. That was one of the most appealing parts for me because I want to completely escape into books. This book was for pure escapism. It was like it was a dream presented so clearly to me that I didn’t ever want to wake up. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I can assure you – it’s not. It was one of those books that you dive headfirst into it and stay emerged in it the entire time.
There were actually several subplots and underlining themes in this book that made it incredibly complex. The themes were of knowing when to speak up, vigilance, and the simpler theme of friendship. This book did focus on morals and how to distinguish shades of grey. Not everything was black and white for some characters, while for some, they were in stark black and white. It was so clever!
This book is about date-rape and how it’s perceived as a crime. The problem with Alex’s school is that they consider their students to be perfect. They refuse to entertain the idea that they could be wrong, and that the students could be harassing each other and bullying each other right underneath their noses. The problem with this is that they can prevent it to an extent if they actually tried but they’re too stubborn to admit that they could be wrong.
While I do love the idea of going to a boarding school, and how the school teaches “modern” education such as current events and uses modern teaching methods, the school was one of the main problems in the book. In a normal system, behavior wouldn’t go so far because the students know that they will get punished.
Other than the school, Alex had other problems. Carter was a popular water-polo boy, and he used his network of friends and sports teams to spread rumors about Alex. Within hours of the incident, he was spreading the news that she was a slut and his version of the story. Alex was hardly known, and the popular people who knew her, didn’t like her very much.
Alex was very endearing. She was an extremely likable character – which she had to be for the story to work – but she herself was very open. She was willing to believe the best in people, which not many people can claim. She had strong connections with her friends and family because of her personality and great character.
Her friends also contributed to my love of the book.
Martin is a part of the Mockingbirds. He’s a science geek, and he’s been fascinated by many things over the years. He’s the guy who has always had Alex’s back, and she relies on him a lot throughout the whole ordeal. He was very sweet and he was a gentleman. He was the type of guy who makes Alex believe that not all guys are pigs like Carter and I respected him for what he did for her. Martin did so much for Alex and the group throughout the book, especially so that Alex could feel safe again.
Maia is an exotic, beautiful girl who is Alex’s roommate. It’s enough that she’s incredible, but she also has words at her command. She can manipulate words to any end, and because of this, she’s unstoppable in debate. She’s the one who exploits the legal and logical parts of the case and is determined to win the trial.
T.S. was probably the most average character. She played soccer, and she was just a supporting friend to Alex. She’s one of Alex’s best friends, and is friends with Alex’s sister. T.S. actually played a vital role in this book. She was the one who helped Alex a ton, but she did it more quietly than the others. She was enjoyable to read about and a character that I would love to learn more about in The Rivals.
There are some mixed reviews and thoughts about this book based on its realism. For one, some people do think that it’s unrealistic that the teachers are so blatantly blind to what is going on. I do think that Alex should have gone to the police, but I don’t mind because of the reasons presented why she didn’t want to. I DO however, disagree with the idea that the Mockingbirds is unrealistic. I think that it is realistic and that it presents an alternative for students and a way of controlling themselves.
The Mockingbirds is such a strong idea. The idea that students can stand up for themselves and bring power to themselves is something that should be taken seriously. So many people completely overlook crimes of students against other students, and the morals that should be upheld. The Mockingbirds is enforcing those morals among the students of Themis Academy, and that premise is part of what makes it so powerful. Imagine if the gay boy bullied in homeroom could stand up for himself with the weight of the school behind him. People can live in peace with this system, and it made a difference for so many people in the Mockingbirds.
It’s interesting that we just read To Kill a Mockingbird in Language Arts because it’s actually turned into one of my favorites. It’s definitely one of my favorite classics. It was nice exploring the fun, literary side of it instead of dissecting every word and phrase in the book. The book was still fresh enough in my head so that I could make comparisons and see some deeper issues in both the books knotting together, but not to where I was sick of it.
I loved the twist on the Mockingbirds as to where the book was concerned. There were a lot of purposeful references to it, but you don’t need to necessarily read the book. Daisy Whitney does an excellent job of explaining the parallels between them. If I hadn’t already read To Kill a Mockingbird, I still would have completely understood everything that she was trying to say. However, if you have read the novel, you may find little hints and references in unexpected places.
The Mockingbirds themselves were extremely organized. Their system was clear while still complex, and was very easy to understand. The ideas of the Mockingbirds themselves is genius, and their checks and balances system was a wonder. They also kept trying to improve the system so that they could take on more and help more people. They expanded and changed a few rules while sticking to their concrete morals. It was fascinating to see how the system adapted to the cases and it was absolutely brilliant how Daisy Whitney was able to pull them off.
The writing itself is beautiful. Alex is narrating from the first person and from the first page, you have a connection to her. It’s like she is telling a story to you. The way her character and narration is presented, it’s like you’ve known her your entire life and are just now hearing a new story from her. She feels like a friend, and her intimacy with the reader is very tender.
The book was very slow paced, but it worked for this. It worked to be stretched over a period of time because it showed the short- and long-term effects of the events of the year. Relationships grew and changed. People started to understand that their actions had effects on other people. We saw Alex grow and develop so much throughout this, and her friends with her as they tried to help her through her ordeal.
I’m so happy that I ended up loving it. The Mockingbirds is such a strong story, told in such an intimate and entertaining way that I can’t help but fall in love with it. Daisy Whitney has spun pure gold, and I absolutely adored it. If you’re hesitant because of the positive reviews, go for it! I only regret that I didn’t read it sooner! I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Recommended for anybody who loves: To Kill a Mockingbird; Impossible; Anna and the French Kiss; Just Listen; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
How do you think this book sets a positive example for teens?
Do you think that the Mockingbirds have a good punishment?
Do you think that the Mockingbirds should have the power to decide matters like this?
How did Alex’s character develop throughout the book? Compare her character at the beginning to her character at the end.