Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: The Mockingbirds

The Mockingbirds (Mockingbirds, book 1)
By Daisy Whitney
Published 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

At prestigious Themis Academy, the teachers and staff think the students can do no wrong. But the students know that isn't true. So they've come up with their own solution: the Mockingbirds. Alex is a good student (everyone at Themis is) - music is her passion. So when she wakes up one morning, naked, in the bed of a boy whose name she can't really remember and suspects that something she didn't agree to went on the night before, Alex has two choices - keep quiet and do nothing, or enlist the help of the Mockingbirds to bring that boy to justice.

I picked this one up because I received an ARC of the sequel at ALA last summer. I think I had heard good things about the book beforehand so I may have eventually gotten around to it as well, but this bumped it up on my to-read list. This book deals with some tough stuff and, sometimes, in a very frustrating way. However, I think it's only frustrating because it's realistic. Even though most of us know the statistics, there is still that myth about rape: some stranger attacking us in a dark parking lot or breaking into our house randomly. Random - that's how we still imagine most rape to occur. But we should all know better by now; the majority of rape is what's called date rape, perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is familiar. Mockingbirds brings this statistic to the forefront by telling Alex's story. This book also deals heavily and, I think, wonderfully with the issue of consent. In fact, it is this issue that Alex's charges hinge on. I don't think it can be denied that, to this day, we live in a rape culture. I guess I should be careful what I say here but there is still a lot of misinformation about rape in our society. I think this book, while it is fiction, could help clear up some of the fogginess. I don't want to give too many details of the plot away, but I think Whitney handles this topic sensitively and smartly. Why I found this book frustrating is because Alex behaves very much like I know vicitims behave. She questions herself constantly, wondering if this is really all her own fault and feeling guilty about pressing charges when she's so unsure about what happened. It's very frustrating to read all this self-doubt but, at the same time, it's very realistic. I'm not 100% invested in reading a sequel to this but mainly because I can't imagine a more compelling storyline. However, I'll give it a shot. I think this book probably deserves a wider audience than it's gotten. I found it to handle a difficult topic well and certainly opening the door for important discussions.

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