Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Alex wakes up naked in a stranger’s bed after drinking too much the night before. The boy, Carter, claims they had sex. Twice. And Alex is horrified because she can’t remember anything, and she thinks she should remember her first time. When she confesses to her roommate, her roommate insists that she’s been date-raped and that they need to go to their boarding school’s secret society, The Mockingbirds, in order get justice.


Good things first. I am thrilled that this novel brings up the subject of date-rape in a sensitive, discussion worthy way. There is no victim blaming and the idea of YES means YES vs NO means NO brilliantly brings across that if you don’t specifically agree to having sex, then you are being taken advantage of and are a victim of a crime.

Author Whitney, a date-rape victim herself, also deftly shows how Alex’s trauma effects her relationships and her day to day life and sets up a tender romance with a fellow student, Martin, to underscore the difference of consensual “hooking-up” and non-consensual date-rape.

However, I was extremely frustrated with Alex for taking action against her alleged rapist based solely on circumstantial evidence. She can’t remember if she had sex or not (question: especially as a virgin, wouldn’t she feel some physical effects of forced entry?), so simply takes Carter’s word for it (a boy who is known to make false claims) and sees two empty condom wrappers as proof that something MUST have happened.

Now I can see why she wouldn’t necessarily think of doing a rape-kit and why she wouldn’t want to go to the police, but why not see a doctor for some tangible evidence before making a very serious claim against someone that could severely damage their reputation?

SPOILER (invisio text! highlight with your curser to read): I realize this becomes a moot point once Alex regains her memories – still it really bothered me through most of the novel.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of The Mockingbirds’ brand of justice. It’s clever, sure, but it also smacks of the very bullying it is trying to combat.

It is for those reasons that I recommend this novel, but with some reservations.

THE MOCKINGBIRDS is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

17 comments:

Zibilee said...

I got this book at SIBA, and have heard a lot about it since then. I think I am going to be reading it in a very different mindset having read all those reviews. It sounds like it deals with a big issue, but maybe not in the perfect way.

Jordyn said...

I posted my review today too and saw the book a little differently than you did... mostly, the things that bothered you didn't really bother me. I definitely took Carter's word + the condom wrappers as a sort of proof that they'd had sex and I've read a few reviews that question the "justice" of the Mockingbirds. Personally - while I see where you're coming from - I loved it and thought that especially for a fully student-run justice league, it was incredibly thought out and well-executed, especially the bits about what happens if the accused is innocent.

Lenore said...

Jordyn,

I may be a bit sensitive on the issue of circumstantial evidence because of a case I recently heard where a man went to jail based on a teen's accusations of rape that were solely based on a pyschological profile that she had studied just to see if she could trick the experts. Later she confessed to making it all up - but the man had already spent years in prison and lost his family.

I know the consequences The Mockingjays dole out aren't quite as serious, and honestly - you could argue that Carter brought it on himself if he is dumb enough to SAY he had sex with her (even if he didn't). Carter is definitely a douche - I'm not contesting that. But at the beginning I kept thinking - BUT is he a rapist? I know that the question is answered pretty definitively by the end of the novel. However, it frustrated me that neither Alex nor any of her friends wanted to MAKE SURE a crime was really committed before punishing someone for it - before it came out in the trial what really happened.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Unfair accusations and bullying is just as serious as date rape, so I can see exactly how you would have been bothered. I got the book from SIBA too, like Heather, and will have to bear all of this in mind when I read it.

Rachel Star said...

Thanks for being really honest (and really clear too) in your review Lenore, it was brilliant to read it, especially since I've been seeing this everywhere. I do want to read it, possibly even more so now, just to see if I agree with you or not!

bermudaonion said...

I got this book at SIBA and since then I've been disappointed in the reviews I've read. I lowered my expectations considerably.

Carla said...

I'm still on the fence about this one. can't decide whether i want to read it or wait a while. Just the premise makes me a bit angsty, but maybe thats because I tend to stay away from the more serious books because they just upset me.

Liz B said...

I agree it was a little too everyone-telling-Alex-she-was-raped. I think MOCKINGJAYS offers a lot for dialogue and book discussion and discussions on justice. I also thought it interesting that Carter was sober. If Carter was drunk -- and Alex is said to be too drunk to consent -- well, at what point is it no one's fault if both people are drunk beyond the ability to consent? Just another point that can be discussed.

Lenore said...

That is a good point Liz. Maybe if Carter was too drunk too, nothing would've happened?

Amanda said...

Amy reviewed this the other day and she said the same thing about the Mockingbird justice, and that's one thing about the book that I think will bother me as well. It sounds like a really good book, but i'm also a little leery about it.

Irish said...

Very good review Lenore. You were kinder to the story than I was but there is much we agree on. I think things would have been different if the events of what happened came out sooner. I think Whitney waited to long.

Beth S. said...

I'm reading this book right now. I'm a little less than halfway through it. I'm enjoying it but I agree that the Mockingbird's brand of justice is rather bothersome, but I'm hoping that the reason for it is more to spur discussion than anything else.

Liz B said...

About Mockingbirds justice: As I said on my review and on twitter, this book offers a good reason to step back and ask the exact same questions about our own justice system. I think there could be some great discussions, especially if groups/classes included guests from the local District Attorney, Public Defender, etc.

Staci said...

I'm not sure if this is one that I would read or not. I do feel that date-rape needs to be talked about but when both sides become bullies then maybe the message gets lost along the way.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Huh, this sounds like an interesting book. I'm glad there are books being written that take on the issue of date rape, because I think that's something complicated that doesn't get talked about enough.

Michelle said...

I enjoyed this book a great deal, sure I had some issues (many of which you echo here) with it, but all in all I think it's a great discussion starter. :)

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