So ok, we're probably pretty biased because the proprieter of A Girl With Books is one of OUR girls... Her name is Connie and she works at our Opera Plaza store in San Francisco. Connie's an avid reader (hello, she works in a bookstore) and now that she's graduated SFSU (CONGRATULATIONS, CONNIE!) she's going to have ever more time to spend on her awesome blog. Below, is the review she wrote of The Mockingbirds by local author (and NYMBC guest) Daisy Whitney.
The Mockingbirds opens with Alex waking up in an unknown
person's bed with no memory of the night before. She had sex, but she
never remembers consenting. As fragments of the night comes back, Alex
realizes that she been raped. What follows is an exceptional debut book
about a young girl's stand for justice. Complex and authentic, Whitney
weaves a story that's part courtroom drama and part emotional journey as
Alex struggles to find her self and her voice in the aftermath of her
I really love this book. It was one of my favorite debut novels of 2010. The characters and plot were so skillfully crafted that this is an impressive story that I would advocate every teen and their parent read this book. Alex's characterization felt very spot-on and realistic as she struggles with her feelings of doubt, guilt, shame, etc. as she attempts to feel 'normal' again. Her vulnerability and strength as she confronts her demons and her rapist definitely got me rooting for her. I also enjoyed the strong secondary female characters Whitney writes. Maia, Amy, T.S., etc. were all incredible characters as they help support Alex through her healing process. My internal feminist was definitely jumping up and down as these characters appeared on the page. Additionally, Whitney does not fall into the trap of characterizing all the boys as one-dimensional stereotypes. There were the jerks (Carter), but she also has Jones and Martin, boys who have a strong moral code and different ideas on how to approach justice.
One major aspect that I notice in many reviews is the commentary that Carter did not get a fitting enough punishment for his crime. That date rape is something that need to be address by the public legal system and that he should be given time in prison, etc.. I don't disagree with that statement. Rape is a serious issue and I completely agree that Carter should be given a harsher sentence, but given the confines of the premise, the punishment the Mockingbirds give for the guilt sentence is as far as their power can go. Because the Mockingbirds is a student-run society, anything harsher is out of their reach. The other comments I notice is about the version of justice that the Mockingbirds use on Carter. I can understand their point, but my counterpoint is that since the Mockingbirds is not a formal court of justice, they have to use other avenues to ensure that the accuse show up for the case and accept their punishment if found guilty. If they did not use ways to compel the accused to show up, how will they try the case or punish someone, the Mockingbirds will be an ineffective group. And it is very checks and balance as attest by Alex when she signed the contract. If Alex was found lying, she'll have to accept punishment.
"Sexual assault is against the standards to which Themis students hold themselves. Sexual assault is sexual contact (not just intercourse) where one of the parties has not given or cannot give active verbal consent, i.e., uttered a clear "yes" to the action. If a person does not say "no" that does not mean he or she said "yes." Silence does not equal consent. Silence could mean fear, confusion, inebriation. The only thing that means yes is yes. A lack of yes is a no."
This quote above is one of the most candid messages I read about rape in a YA book and one of the best messages in this book. Especially today, where society still stigmatize women for not being a virgin or acting morally (getting drunk or high, dressing provactively, etc.). And if they do act unmoral, they are therefore "asking for it." The Mockingbirds empowers women with its strong message that rape isn't simply the act of sexual intercourse and that being drunk or expressing sexuality through clothes or words is not an agreement to sex. That silence does not equal consent. And a lack of yes is a no. This message alone makes The Mockingbirds a must-read for anybody and everybody, but combined with the awesome characters and plot, its not only empowering, but page-turning as well.