Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds is a timely story of a terrible crime that I fear happens more than anyone would like to admit. I’d like to think that cases of date rape are being heard more than ever, but there seems to be such a tremendous amount of guilt felt by the wounded party that it is a unique situation. This makes it difficult for many women to seek help. We've tried to teach young people that "no means no." But, this book explores another important caveat: Silence doesn't mean "yes."

Alex doesn’t remember, at first, what happened to her. She wakes up in some boy’s room and there are two used condoms in the trash. She realizes that she was very drunk, and must have blacked out. As the book goes on, she slowly remembers some details of that night. Alex does not want to go to the police, and doesn’t want her parents to know because they will make her come home and attend high school locally. The administration at this exclusive high school is blind to any possible “unpleasantness” that their students might be involved in. After all, these are the smartest students in the country.

Alex’s roommate, T.S. knows of a secret student organization, The Mockingbirds, that handles student complaints against other students by investigating and sometimes having a trial to determine guilt or innocence. Alex decides to enlist their help.

I’ve read many reviews of The Mockingbirds  that are skeptical about the existence of this student-led organization which the administration at the school conveniently knows nothing about. I totally agree – in “real life” I really don’t think this could ever happen. But I still loved this book, and think it is a worthwhile read for teens in general.  Just suspend disbelief– I’ve done so in many books and have no problem doing so in this case.
The well-though-out organization and rules of The Mockingbirds are impressive. It’s hard to believe these high school kids could be so level-headed and fair about everything, even if they are super brains. They still have teenage hormones roaring around their bodies, so I have my doubts.

Whitney writes about much more than just The Mockingbirds. There are many details that make this story special. Alex is a talented pianist who loves Beethoven. The Mockingbirds are named after the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, so there are many references to that text. There’s a budding romance between Alex and another student. And there’s French class, which adds some other details to the story. Alex’s music teacher, Miss Damata, is a breath of fresh air among the adults.

Alex’s growth and eventual acceptance of this event is realistically portrayed, if a bit too quickly. I’m not sure many girls would be able to return to “normal” as soon as Alex, but then maybe Alex isn’t completely healed at the end of the story either. It’s difficult to tell.

I wish I could get boys to read this, but I’m fairly certain it’s a girl book. But I will recommend it to my older teens who like realistic, somewhat edgy fiction. And I have a lot of those…

Published by Little, Brown, & Co., 2010
Copy obtained from the library
335 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. I like the idea of an all-students student help group, though I gotta admit, I don't see it happening in high school, either. (Maybe in college!) Great review, Annette-- I definitely need to read this one. :)

  2. oo thank you for this awesome review! I just checked this book out of the library only because I've read a lot of hype about it but I wasn't truely looking forward to it....but now I am....thanks :)

  3. I have heard this book is really good. I'll have to add it to my list.


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