Some schools have honor codes. Others have handbooks. Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds. 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.
While Daisy Whitney’s debut novel The Mockingbirds, deserves applauds for dealing with the difficult issue of date rape, and I felt that much of the discussion surrounding this issue was dealt with great sensitivity, there were aspects of the book that I did have trouble accepting.
At first, Alex’s voice left me cold. Yes, Alex is a victim, and never dealing with such a horrifying experience myself, I tried to step into Alex’s shoes and wonder exactly how my personality would change, if in fact, I awoke naked in a guy’s bed without any knowledge of how I got there or what took place. Certainly, a very scary situation. Alex’s first concern, however, was getting back to her dorm without being seen fearful that the rumors about her would spread around campus.
I also got that Alex’s memory of the incident is impaired by the fact that she was drunk, and as she tries to piece together everything that happened, as many victims of abuse often do, she blames herself. Consequently, instead of going to the police she chooses to ignore it until her friends convince her to go to the Mockingbirds, a student run organization that investigates, tries, and punishes other students’ wrongful acts.
As the story unfolds, Alex did grow on me. I began to accept the way she chose to deal with the situation even though I did not agree with it. I also found that Whitney’s message about rape: “no” means “no” and an absence of a “yes” does not equal a “yes” was unequivocally clear. On the flip side, I fear that Whitney inadvertently is sending the message that talking with adults is not helpful since the whole reason for the Mockingbirds is that Themis Academy turns a blind eye to problems that will show the school in a bad light. It also may give the wrong impression that vigilante justice is a viable, even acceptable option.
The Mockingbirds, however, is a very engaging and compelling read. Once I began the book, I read nonstop. I loved that Alex was able to let Martin in and trust that not all guys are jerks like Carter. I also envied Alex’s ability to lose herself in her music, and I was happy that Whitney did not take this part of Alex’s personality and allow the rape to taint it. Whitney takes a difficult issue and shines a spotlight on it, so the reader can examine it from several distinct angles. We see the effect date rape has on the victim, the need to extract justice as a way to heal, and how teenage drinking leads to a lot more than a hangover. The Mockingbirds is powerful enough to open the door to discussion about all these issues and more.