Reviewing: The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney

February 20, 2011 stephhwilliams 0 Comments

Okay, so I’m fairly certain that most people know what the “first page test” is for a book.  You know, you read the first page and if it’s enough to hook you then you decide to read the whole thing.

Well, most of the time, my test for reading is a little more intimate than that.  What I mean is that I’m more like to read a book that’s been recommended by a friend even if it wouldn’t have alone satisfied the “first page test.”  And the subject of this review, The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney, was certainly recommended by a friend, being another of the books so graciously lent by @shabbygeek.  (By the way, she writes a really cool blog focusing on cover art for YA novels called That Cover Girl.) But, even without that endorsement, this book would have satisfied the “first page test”; actually, it satisfied the “first line test” if I wanted to get technical:

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “Hmmm, this has the potential to be somewhat explicit and possibly quite entertaining!” Well, it was definitely entertaining just perhaps not in the way you’re thinking, again if you’re at all like me. Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

The Mockingbirds is the story of true justice by one’s peers.  It takes place at a private co-ed boarding school, Themis Academy, where the teens get too much freedom and ultimately have to grow up too fast.  Alex, the main character, is a sophomore who’s goal in life is to get into Juilliard.  She’s a piano player, with a paradoxical love for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (which doesn’t contain a piano piece), and a general aversion to the more social aspects of teenagedom.  But that all changes in one night, when she has to much to drink (that alone completely out of character for her) and ends up waking up next to a boy she doesn’t recognize with nothing more than a sinking feeling that something bad happened the night before.  Over the coming weeks, as the memories of that night slowly resurface to her piece by piece, she’s forced to face the fact that she may have been date-raped.

Now at this school, things like this don’t happen, at least according to the administration.  While there are things like rules and school handbooks and policies, there’s no real system for Alex to use in her situation. At least, no official one.  She learns, however, that a few years before, a student-run justice system emerged.  A system inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, required reading for all freshman at Themis and not-so-ironically the story of a man falsely-accused of rape, and the injustices occurring amongst students right under the administration’s collective nose. This student organization, the Mockingbirds, has a board and a council, gives notices (in its own unique way) and holds hearings … and it gets justice whether Themis wants to admit it’s necessary or not.

Despite the delicate topic, the book is an enjoyable read.  It’s not the story of an ambush, or a guilty-until-proven-innocent account of an event.  Sides are presented; testimony is weighed.  The reader’s given a chance to discover along with Alex as she remembers piece by piece what really happened that night. Ultimately, it’s the story of students learning to face the injustices of the world and fighting them together. When you’ve finished the book, you don’t have the romantic notion that all’s right with the world, but you do think that people are all that bad.

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