332 pp. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2010 ISBN: 9780316090537
Summary (from the publisher): “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.”
First of all, I was hooked from the very first page. Alex wakes up naked in a boy’s bed and doesn’t know how she got there. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt for a character so quickly before, but I instantly wanted to jump in and help Alex. Thankfully she has a supportive roommate and a caring older sister. What happened begins to dawn on Alex, but she doesn’t want to admit right away that she was raped. When she gets back to her room and eventually begins telling her story, she’s taken to visit her sister who tells her about the Mockingbirds. This is where I start to feel torn…
**Beware of some spoilers. I needed to include some spoiler info to fully explain myself**
Fortunately, I’ve never been in Alex’s position, but I can still understand her hesitation to admit what happened and take action. It didn’t stop me though from yelling at her to tell the police. After taking some time to consider her options, Alex chooses to seek out the Mockingbirds to punish her rapist. I respect Alex’s decision, and I understand why the story is written this way. But as a teacher, I think about teens reading this novel. Not all teens have the alternative Alex does. So what should they do if they read this novel and want help outside of the police? Thankfully, Alex does confide in an adult. And that moment was written so honest and beautifully I teared up. I was reading this part during SSR in front of my class, so I had to hold back any real tears.
That was my only issue with The Mockingbirds. It’s a book I couldn’t put down, nor did I want to put it down. Daisy Whitney has a wonderful vocabulary and grip on how teens interact. The relationship between Alex and Martin is incredibly believeable and paced perfectly, which is really important. Alex doesn’t feel comfortable allowing herself to fall for someone after her rape, so she battles with her emotions. Once she and Martin begin spending more time together, their relationship unfolds naturally. They might be one of my favorite realistic fiction book couples actually!
Another reason I’m excited about The Mockingbirds is how it ladders with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This isn’t about racial injustice, but about injustice in general. Teenagers have a better sense of what’s right and wrong than we give them credit for. It’s horrible that the students at Themis Academy didn’t feel that they could count on the administration, but it’s admirable that they created their own system for justice with checks and balances. The entire concept behind this book is brilliant.
I highly recommend teens, guys and girls, and teachers alike read The Mockingbirds. It’s begging to be discussed. It’s bound to become a classic.