The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
The teachers and administrators at Themis, an elite boarding school, are clueless. When an incident arises about bullying, cheating, stealing, or other student crimes, it’s brushed under the rug. After all, the students at Themis are some of the brightest, most talented students in the country! They can’t do any wrong. That’s where The Mockingbirds come in. Equal parts Boo Radley and Atticus Finch, The Mockingbirds are the vigilante justice system in place for the students, by the students. They hear cases and—through a system of checks and balances—make rulings.
When Alex wakes up naked in another student’s bed without any recollection of the night before, she gradually comes to terms with the truth: she’s been date raped. With everything in her life turned upside down, she goes to The Mockingbirds for help.
The Mockingbirds is everything a YA novel should be and rarely is. Whitney creates a flesh-and-blood heroine, with fully developed interests that reach beyond the span of cute boys. She has her share of flaws that come out over the course of the book, but they make her relatable as a character. Whitney also tackles complex and mature subject to tackle, never condescending to her readers. The scenes where Alex flashes back to her rape are painful to read, as they should be, and the trial that takes place toward the end rings true, full of victim-blaming we see every day on the news.
Sadly, the victim blaming doesn’t stop there. When I read reviews for this book, I was disgusted by the amount of readers who disparaged the book because they didn’t see Alex as a real victim because she’d been drinking and therefore she was asking for it. To those reviewers I say shame on you. Alcohol doesn’t facilitate rape. If you were to randomly look at three rape cases, you would be hard-pressed to find even one similarity between the victims (not what they were wearing, not their level of intoxication, not their number of sexual partners). The only thing they would have in common? The fact that there was a rapist involved.
I liked that Whitney didn’t have Alex assaulted in some dark alley or physically forced. Date rape is so often seen as a grey area, but she shows that there is nothing grey about it.