Friday, November 26, 2010

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Alex got drunk for the first time at a concert. And that night she was date raped. Alex knows the administration at her prestigious boarding school has a history of looking away from any issues that might make their students seem less than perfect. So Alex goes to the Mockingbirds, a secret student organization that tries crimes and doles out punishment. As Alex slowly remembers more and more about that night, she wonders if she's doing the right thing.

I had mixed feeling about this book. On the one hand, I think date rape is an important topic to talk about. Rape does not have to be done by someone the victim doesn't know; it doesn't even have to be especially violent. The lack of consent is what makes it rape. Alex struggles with this, wondering if it's her fault. She got herself drunk, she was talking to Carter. Is it his fault? Or is it her fault? Does she have a right to be upset about it?

I don't like that no one goes to the police. Alex tries her case with the Mockingbirds, fine. But the reason she doesn't go to the police is that she doesn't feel like what happened to her was bad enough. It was not police worthy. And she never gets to a point where she feels like what happened was police worthy. So your school won't help you. That unfortunately probably happens a lot. Screw the school. Skip right over the school and get the police.

I know it isn't that simple. And that's what I liked about this book. The emotional turmoil that Alex goes through was incredibly realistic and heart wrenching. Daisy Whitney explains in the author's note how she was date raped as an undergrad at Brown. She brought her case to the University Disciplinary Committee. So how Alex is feeling, the guilt, disgusted with herself, thinking it's her fault, afraid to talk about it, is very real, and coming from the author's own experiences. But I wanted Alex at some point to acknowledge that what happened to her was bad and wrong and not her fault and tell the police. I know it doesn't work like that.

At the end, another girl who was on the Mockingbirds committee talked about her own experience, how a girl had carved "queer" into her back and she'd brought her case to the Mockingbirds. OMG. Police. Police now. Right now. These are not things to be dealt with by a group of students. These are serious offenses.

It also bothered me the reaction of the one teacher Alex finally does tell. Not all schools are the same. Not all schools have counselors and psychologists on hand. But all schools should have a plan of what to do if a student tells a faculty member something serious that is potentially dangerous to that student. If a student tells me, "I have to tell you something, please don't tell anyone." I have to say, "I can't promise you that. If I feel like you are in danger, I need to let someone know that. We can't make you do anything, but I need to let someone know." And if she tells me she was date raped, I'm going to let someone know. I can't make her tell her parents or go to the police, but I'm going to get her help. And the teacher doesn't.

So. I thought Alex was a very real character with complex and realistic emotions. I'm sure there are, sadly, many people who will be able to relate to her. I wish that Alex could have gotten further and seen it wasn't really her fault, which I don't she ever got passed, and see that what happened to her was as bad as any other kind of rape. And had gotten help.

The Mockingbirds came out November 2nd.

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