The Mockingbirds is an impressive YA debut by Daisy Whitney. It tells the story of Alex, who attends a prestigious and supposedly trouble free boarding school. However, a secret society, The Mockingbirds, comprised of students seeking justice for the wrongs. Alex has never needed or paid much attention to them, despite her elder sister being the person who started it. Then she is date-raped.
The Mockingbirds is a harrowing read and doesn’t shy of the horror or pain rape victims can go through in the aftermath. I think this is a book that will divide people: on one hand, it’s great that Alex pursues justice for her attacker, but a great point in a review by a blogger friend, Sarah, points out that by not going through legal channels, Carter could do this again. For me, I understood the Mockingbirds though and I could see why Alex would choose to go to them rather than the police. Her case is a he-said-she-said with little to no physical evidence, she’s also ashamed of the fact she drank before the rape and is hardly able to remember anything about the whole night. That is not to say her decision is necessarily the right one; she should have reported her crime to the police, but she didn’t feel it was an option so went to the next best thing. Statistically only one in ten victims will report what has happened to them.
Her pursuit of justice is the central arc of the novel, with her struggling to work out what happened and reconcile it. At the beginning of this process, Alex is reliant of other people; they tell her to go the Mockingbirds and they protect her, but by the end she’s the one in control and protecting herself.
While many of the teachers and professionals do not come out well in the Mockingbirds due to their inability to see the underbelly of teenage life, Whitney does provide an antidote in Alex’s piano teacher: Ms. Damata. Ms. Damata genuinely cares about Alex and is a person she is able to confide in as well as being inspirational through her musical success.
Martin was one of my favourite characters; a friend of Alex’s who was with her that night and she is starting to develop feelings for, and also a member of the Mockingbirds. He was an unashamed good guy geek and I thought he was brilliant. I also really though the character of Amy was interesting, though while I supported her throughout the whole book as a role-model when her own secret was revealed; I felt that perhaps her actions were not severe enough.
Whitney herself, based a portion of this on her own experience and it shows. The descriptions of the rape are harrowing and uncomfortable to read and as I earlier mentioned you really see the pain Alex is going through; taking the long way to classes even in snow to avoid Carter and eating in her dorm rather than the cafeteria. There is one detail that comes out at the end of the novel that I found very affecting personally and it’s something I don’t think I’ve ever read in literature like this about questioning what is rape? What is justice, and what is the right thing to do for both you and generally.
This is a book that left me with thoughts whirling around my head after I finished and that will stay me for a long time. Visceral and emotive, Mockingbirds leaves you with questions about justice and the ‘right’ thing.
Foyles (While I usually link AmazonUK, I bought my copy from Foyles and they sell the paperback which is more cost-effective than the hardback Amazon sells, also I was very impressed with their service)
The Book Depository