Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Published: 2010
Pages: 332
Series: The Mockingbirds #1
Read: 7th December 2010
Challenge: N/A
Status: Owned Book
Reason I Read It: I saw it recommended/reviewed a lot online

Synopsis: 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. (from Goodreads)

First Line: "Three things I know this second: I have morning breath, I'm naked, and I'm waking up next to a boy I don't know."

Review: Started this yesterday evening on a whim and then sat up till 1am to finish it.  As I said on Twitter, it's an 'issue' book without being heavy-handed.  When I think of 'issue' books I think of the God-awful things we were forced to read at school, which taught us such wonderful things as "murder is wrong"*.  This book deals with a real issue and does it in a way that is thoughtful, sensitive and lightly done enough that someone doesn't react against the lesson.

That isn't to say that there weren't moments that were clearly - I don't want to say 'preaching' because that is wrong, but laying down a manifesto for how things should be.  For what consent is.  As Whitney puts it
If a person does not say "no" that does not mean he or she said "yes".  Silence does not equal consent.
A very important message for people to learn, along with the fact that when someone is drunk you don't take advantage.  As Whitney says in her Author's Note, she was date raped at university and this pervades the novel.  You know the way Alex is reacting is true to life, is the way you would react, including the last minute doubts about what really happened and the initial denial that anything did.  The rape scenes themselves are, naturally, horrible, and the way in which the memories slowly return during the book is powerful.  It all made me want to throw copies at teenagers and make them read it.

This possibly makes it sound like all the book is good for is a message, which is what 'issue' books are usually about.  But the characters are great, the prose fluent and engaging, and the relationship that grows up throughout the book is wonderful.  Best of all is the idea of the Mockingbirds themselves, using the message in Harper Lee to fight for good, including a trial that plays along similar lines to Tom Robinson's.  And all of this set in a boarding school with its own weird rules and regulations.  School story + To Kill A Mockingbird = I am in my own little readerly heaven.  

Rating: 8/10

* Really, teacher, and here I'd reached the age of twelve thinking it was OK to run down an old woman with a stolen scooter and then lie about it until eventually the guilt drives me mad like someone in an Edgar Allen Poe story.  For more info, see the book to which I refer - what irks me is that this guy also wrote the Beaver Towers books, which were amongst my favourites when I was younger.

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