The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Summary: Some schools have honor codes.

Others have handbooks.

Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way–the Themis way. So when Alex Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds-a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.

In this account of a teenage girl’s search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight. (From author website).

My Thoughts: I read The Mockingbirds in one night, as I was immediately absorbed by the kind of terrifying opening scene–our narrator Alex wakes up in the morning in a strange bed next to a strange boy, both of them completely naked, and has absolutely no memory of what happened to her the night before. She is confused, scared, and uncertain of exactly what to do, but thankfully she has a circle of good friends, a cool older sister, and of course, The Mockingbirds, a secret student society at Themis Academy.

I think Whitney did a perfect job here of portraying the confusion, shame, and fear that comes after an event like this. Date-rape does not fit into the classic stereotype of rape that everyone seems to have, the one where a complete and total stranger holds a knife to your neck and forces you into a dark alley late at night somewhere. A lot of people seem to think that is the only kind of rape that happens, the only kind of rape where the victim is absolutely blameless.

Date rape, on the other hand, is often perpetrated by someone you know, or someone who’s associated with you once or twice to some degree–an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, a co-worker. There are often drugs or (more likely) alcohol involved, a factor that many seem to think makes the victim partly to blame for being raped.

Which is untrue, as Whitney does a good job of explaining throughout the novel. At first, Alex doesn’t believe she’s been raped–and as the reader, you don’t think she has either, because all you have are her thoughts and her memories, which aren’t complete. But things start to unfold, and we learn, along with Alex and many other students at Themis, that “only yes means yes.” That silence should never be taken as consent.

I wasn’t as thrilled with or convinced by the circumstances Whitney built up to explain why exactly Alex did not approach the authorities or the administration at her school to report the rape. I understand it was necessary in order to introduce the Mockingbirds themselves, but it was a little bit loose and didn’t clinch it for me.

I still enjoyed The Mockingbirds a lot and definitely recommend.

Author Website: http://daisywhitney.com/

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Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary: Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in mediæval Ireland — but all of this is lost the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country’s laws regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference.

My Thoughts: Many might glance at the title, see “Princess” and immediately think happy fluffy cloud thoughts.

I”m not sure whether this novel is classified as YA, but there is mature content as Melkorka, our protagonist, is forced into the world of slavery. The style is very sparse and gritty, and Napoli does not spare the readers the darker details of life. There are open wounds and violent sexual assault, but all serve to highlight the cruelties of human slavery.

Melkorka was a very interesting heroine. I didn’t feel a very strong connection to her, but I admired her and her fortitude. Very beautiful and gloomy story. It’s based on true happenings, and the ending sort of depressed me, but it was very well written all the same.

The connection to mythology was great, I’m glad the author wove in the variation on the traditional enchantress/shapechanger tale.

I think this might actually be the first Napoli book I’ve read, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hush is very different from your traditional “princess” tale.

It’s very… hm, magnetic. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary: (From BN.com) “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” So begins The Kite Runner, a poignant tale of two motherless boys growing up in Kabul, a city teetering on the brink of destruction at the dawn of the Soviet invasion.

Despite their class differences, Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, his devoted sidekick and the son of Amir’s household servant, play together, cause mischief together, and compete in the annual kite-fighting tournament — Amir flying the kite, and Hassan running down the kites they fell. But one day, Amir betrays Hassan, and his betrayal grows increasingly devastating as their tale continues. Amir will spend much of his life coming to terms with his initial and subsequent acts of cowardice, and finally seek to make reparations.

Commentary: This book has been on everyone’s mind since it was published (and subsequently made into a movie) but I actually read Hosseini’s second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, first.

The Kite Runner did not disappoint me, even with all the hooplah surrounding it. Hosseini’s style is clear and emotional, everything is well-paced and descriptive. A good, solid read and great glimpse into Afghani culture and history.

Even with all the destruction and warfare and devestation throughout the novel, it retained a sense of hopefulness which I think is especially crucial. At times it was a little too wound up and weepy, but generally smooth and I recommend it.