Book Review: The Mockingbirds

Posted August 14, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 4 Comments

Book Review: The MockingbirdsThe Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Series: The Mockingbirds #1
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on November 2nd 2010
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 339
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

From the glossy pages of its admissions brochure, the prestigious Themis Academy appears perfect in every way: exceptional academics, extraordinary students, the kind of extracurriculars to make an Ivy League proud, and zero instances of student misbehavior. But this boarding school isn't as pristine as it appears. There's a dark underbelly to the perfect record the Themis administration flaunts. Student infractions are rampant, and it's up to a secret vigilante society, the Mockingbirds, to maintain order on campus--a responsibility their members take very seriously.
Alex Patrick never thought she would need the Mockingbirds. But when she's date-raped by another student, she doesn't know where else to go. As much as she'd like to forget what happened, she can't escape the daily reminders of what went wrong that terrible night. Before she can summon the courage to take a stand, she'll have to accept that her battle for justice is not hers alone. Standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following review centers around a rape victim and discusses attitudes towards rape and victim blaming.

With the current climate towards sexual assault on college campuses, it is imperative that we include these events in today’s media, advocating for the victims of rape and sexual assault. We’ve made some progress in the area, but it still isn’t enough. For example, Cracked ran an article about interviewing a college rapist, who admitted to raping a girl, and was afraid to speak out because he knew that the victim would still shoulder the blame, even though he was admitting to it. In fact, this is a direct quote from the article:

“When we first talked to him, Tim actually suggested we leave some details out of the article, such as the sex shop bit, saying, “I don’t ever want someone to say [Vicky] was OK with what happened or that she was asking for anything.” He knew your mind might go there, and we’re telling you, the guy who actually assaulted her disagrees with you.”

The perpetrator is taking the full blame for the attack. He admits to what he has done. However, rape is a crime that punishes the victim, even when the criminal flat-out asks for people to not blame the girl he attacked. Sadly, here are just a handful of comments in response to the article:

 “I feel sorry for both Vicky and Tim.”

“As I said elsewhere, calling him a ‘rapist’ and her a ‘victim’ is a problematic way to phrase things when it’s a situation where there are some shades of grey.”

“My thoughts are, either this girl who was religious secretly wanted to go further, and didn’t resist because she was tempted to go further, regretted compromising her morals later and found it easier to palate the next day by claiming she was groped. Or, she has no self respect and can’t even stand up for herself.”

“I’m not saying she wasn’t traumatized or that she was asking for it, but that doesn’t mean he deserves a harsh punishment.”

“This seems more like a horrible accident.”

“This was honest mistake.”

“I can’t understand why she didn’t say something…”

“Would it be wrong to suggest that perhaps they are both victims?”

Yeah. Victim blaming. Vicky was asleep, and Tim went forward with sexual contact, but the mostly male audience still wants to blame the woman involved, showing anger that she reported a crime. Even as I type this, my hands shake and my heart is erratic. I couldn’t believe the amount of comments still pining the blame onto Vicky.

If anyone tried to point out the faulty logic in these comments, they were “downvoted”. These people were insulted and ignored. Every possible voice for the victim was silenced and ridiculed.

However, there were also plenty of comments in support of the victim, and many of the users advocated sex education in schools, which includes lessons on consent. Some people suggested therapy for Tim, and others were very vocal that silence is not consent or permission.

This was just one article on a predominately humor-related site geared towards men. If you look up articles on the same subject, the response will be the same. With all of the social pressure and victim blaming, we need to educated both women and men on the realities of rape.

I was thrilled to see a book that openly discussed rape, consent, issues with intoxication and victim blaming by the student body, male and female both.

I hate to rate this book at a 3, because this book tackles some very heavy topics when it comes to sexual assault and rape.  As one commenter pointed out on the Cracked article, we’re never taught about consent or the rights of others in a relationship. Girls are taught to watch what they wear, or who hands them a drink, and to never go out alone. Don’t tease and flirt with a guy unless you mean it, and if a guy pays for your dinner, then you are cheating if you don’t “put out”. If you get drunk and pass out, then you’re on your own, and you didn’t act like a lady. But don’t be a prude – no one likes a cold, frigid bitch. Dress like a woman, but not too much like a woman.

There are some great topics in the novel. Alex’s conflicting feelings and her internal struggle were realistic. Can she date after this attack?  Will it discredit her claim if she becomes romantically involved during the trial? Was it really rape if she was drunk, or if she followed the boy to his room? If she showed any interest in the assault, is it “real rape”? These are legitimate, honest inquiries that run through Alex’s head while she proceeds with seeking justice against her attacker. Many of these concerns mirror some of the questions and fears that rape victims constantly ask themselves everyday. Their lives become entangled in this new label, and many victims are unsure how to proceed forward. Instead of a person, these people are now fish in a bowl, and everything they do is going to come under scrutiny. Hell, go to a search engine and type in Bill Cosby. Look at what is said about the women that came forward. How can the victims find any peace or even believe they are entitled to justice if the major consent is: “slut, money grubber, drunken whore, liar, attention seeker, tease”?

 

Now it is time to delve into why I rated this book in the middle of the scale. The first scene of the book opens with Alex waking up the morning after the assault, trying to piece together what had happened. She was drunk and fuzzy on the details. It is her friends that convince her to take action. However, Alex doesn’t even try to approach an adult or contact the cops. The school has a reputation of ignoring problems inside the school. But turning a blind eye to reported cheaters and ignoring a sexual crime are two different things. Even though the Mockingbirds take care to be honest and fair, I feel like it is asking Scooby and the gang to help out with a murder. The students should have reported this to the proper authorities. There are times when students should intervene in matters, such as school rules and conflict management. But this wasn’t just a disagreement over flipflops or a student admitting to bullying. This was a crime, and it was handled with kid gloves. Writing the accused person’s name in a book? Placing props in a tree to signal that they’re gonna get someone? This isn’t a game or a school matter. This is a criminal offence.
I couldn’t just dismiss the lack of responsibility. I would have thought that the story would be more compelling if the students WERE dismissed by authorities or adults. But the more sensible solution was passed right over, for the sake of…privacy? To avoid embarrassment by both sides? I never understood the reasoning on leaving out the police. And what can a group of well-meaning students do? They can’t place this person in jail or add the crime onto his record. They’re going to “force” him to drop an extracurricular activity. That’s it. A guy takes advantage of a drunk girl in his room, and in return, he is kicked off of his team. And how do they get the accused to follow through with the punishment? They use bully tactics such as manipulation of their school-assigned positions and make a scene to embarrass the accused party. This is even before the “trial”.

The author admits at the end of the book that she was date raped in college, and the faculty brought offender to justice after the author and other victims spoke up on the lack of action on the school’s part. I believe she stated that he was suspended. So I am getting mixed signals. The author took the correct course of action in her crime, but then creates a story, lambasting the clueless adults as out of touch? How can you accuse the staff of not caring about Alex when she never even told any of them.

words_overall

This was a hard book to rate. There were some wonderful parts of the novel, parts that confronted myths and facts about rape and rape victims. However, I can’t overlook the lack of responsibility of everyone involved, and pushing the justice system responsibility onto the students was far-fetched, unrealistic and frankly insulting.

But, fiction such as The Mockingbirds should be embraced and explored. It provides a voice for the victims. But we need more voices, crying out against sexual assault.  Sadly, this isn’t going to be an overnight fight. Put books like this on the shelves and in the hands of the young people. This is how you fight back. Use your stories and use education to take down a draconic view of sexual assault on victims. Promote this message in schools, at universities, on TV. Speak, even if your voice shakes, or your scared. It is hard, and it is frightening, but this is a crime that should not be overlooked due to current social attitudes.

Lyn Sig Plant

4 responses to “Book Review: The Mockingbirds

  1. Yeah, the rape culture is definitely rampant. I think things are better in Europe, but still far from perfect, Lyn. And I actually talk to both my daughters and my sons about consent. And I tell my sons that the person they are with is allowed to change their mind even in the middle of things, and then, my sons’ only choice is to stop. Not saying ‘no’ does not mean yes, and I think that’s very important. Have you seen the ‘People who sleep don’t want tea’ cartoon? It’s well done, and uses tea as a metaphor for sex…
    I think I will read this book, even if you thought some things that happened in it were a little problematic, especially contacting the Mockingbirds rather than the police… but I guess that was kind of one of the main points of the story, no? Campus police is where students should go first, is that correct? (We don’t have campus police, here, only the official police).
    Great review, Lyn 🙂 Thanks for including points from that article, too. It’s definitely a difficult, but important topic to cover.
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…STS # 96 Bought Borrowed and Bagged #46My Profile

    • I am going to have to look up this cartoon. Thank you for the suggestion.

      I would have been better off with the storyline if the MC had TRIED the police first, and if she was rebutted, then going to the Mockingbirds. But she didn’t even try to involve the police OR the campus police. And at the moment, yes, your first stop is the campus police if you are raped in college.

      Looking through that article drained me. I was so upset when I typed that. I couldn’t even breathe when I was reading over some of the comments. Just….no. Why would anyone even think this is okay??
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The MockingbirdsMy Profile

  2. Gosh, the comments on that article. It just… I’m trying not to start throwing curses. Really. It’s so sad to see the victim is still blamed for what was done to him/her. I will add this book. I’ve only read one book that handled this theme well, and I need to read more of that. Great review, Lyn!
    Vane recently posted…Review: SpelledMy Profile

    • Isn’t it horrible? I had to stop reading the comments on the newest article in the news about a college student luring girls into have sex for a “traditional” contest where upper classmen see how many new students they can sleep with. Some of the worst comments came from other women, and I can’t put that into words how it makes me feel when I see other females adding to the problem.

      Even though I had a big issue with the book, I honestly do want people to read this novel. There was a lot that is so important and needed during this time.
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Garden Gazette: August Wrap UpMy Profile

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