After all of the dark fantasy I've been reading lately, I was ready for something a little more "normal." I've had The Mockingbirds out from the library for weeks, and I won't be able to renew it again, so I decided to read it yesterday. (Yes, I read a book that wasn't an ebook! Are you shocked?)
In many ways, Daisy Whitney's book was really difficult to read, so I can only imagine how hard it was for her to write. It's because of the topic: It begins with the main character, Alex, waking up in a strange boy's bed, and realizing she has no memory of what happened. Although she tries to deny it at first, it is immediately clear to her friends that she has been date-raped.
Unfortunately, their boarding school does not really have any sort of system in place to protect students from crimes like this one, so Alex's friends convince her to go to the Mockingbirds, a secret (from the faculty) organization of students that metes out justice.
The book goes through all of the agonizing reactions a girl or woman who is raped goes through: self-disgust and self-blame, having to face him again, and the indecision about whether she is doing the right thing by taking it to the authorities (in this case, the Mockingbirds). Although I read the entire book over the course of yesterday afternoon and evening, there were several times that I had to put it down for a little bit because it was so difficult to read. I wanted to know what happened, but at the same time, it was like I was going through all of it with Alex — except that I had the ability to make it stop happening by putting the book down.
Despite the difficult subject matter, it was a very compelling book, which was what kept me from putting it down for too long. (Obviously, since I finished it in a day.) It is also a subject that I think a lot of girls can relate to. I forget what the percentage of girls estimated to have been date-raped is, but I know it's high; and many of those who haven't been have felt some amount of pressure, or had a boy do something inappropriate that made her uncomfortable, and will relate in that respect.
The indecision that Alex goes through is difficult for me, because I know she's right to be pursuing justice, but she really struggles with it over the course of the book. It's very satisfying, however, to see how Alex grows throughout the course of the book — and throughout the course of the semester. By standing up for herself, however reluctantly at first, she finds inner strength, but she also discovers that pursuing justice is not the same as pursuing vengeance. The justice is about keeping students safe in the future, but ultimately, she has to come to terms with what happened herself.
Although the subject matter really can be difficult, I think this is a wonderful example of how YA fiction is often more meaningful and moving than adult fiction. It really doesn't get much better than The Mockingbirds.