The Mockingbirds

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
The Mockingbirds Book Poster Image
Fast-paced, riveting story of date rape and its aftermath.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story covers sexual consent in detail. At the end of the book, the author provides a list of resources for victims and information on girl-empowerment organizations. Details of To Kill a Mockingbird figure prominently in the story. Works of literature, especially Shakespeare plays, are discussed or are mentioned in passing. The works of composers Beethoven, Liszt, both Schumanns, and George Gershwin figure into the story.

Positive Messages

Have the courage to do the right and sometimes difficult thing. When you stand up for yourself, you could be helping other people without realizing it. Be an active, positive, helpful member of your community. Trust that those who love you want to help you. Give back to your community, especially when you've been helped. Help the voiceless get heard. You only grow if you're able to get out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alex learns to reach out and accept help and to give back. She's a smart, talented kid who gathers the courage to face down her rapist and his bullying friends. Alex's roommates, T.S. and Maia, are smart, driven, hardworking, and loyal. Casey is a good sister to Alex and mentor to her and other students. Many other side characters, such as Jones and Miss Damata, are supportive and helpful to Alex. Many characters advocate for others.

Violence

Not a lot of violence is depicted, but a rape is recalled in an increasingly detailed and graphic fashion; this may be too intense for younger readers. A violent scene from a play gets out of hand, with characters pulling hair, punching, and kneeing each other. A character recounts some unwanted sexual advances. The book opens with a girl in a guy's dorm room, clearly after a sexual encounter, which readers learn was sexual assault. 

Sex

A few scenes have mild kissing and teens making out.

Language

Characters swear but not frequently: "f--k" and its variations, "d--k," "a--hole," "bitch," "slut," "s--t," "bastard," "faggot," "crap," "ass," "boobs," "douche," "douche bag," "p---y," "whore."

Consumerism

Google, Post-it Notes, Vans, Converse, Trivial Pursuit, Gremlins, Tylenol, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola, Law & Order, Clif Bar, Juicy Fruit, Twilight Zone, Pleasantville.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One evening of drinking and playing drinking games is recounted. One teen gets blackout drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know The Mockingbirds is about a teen who's raped at her prep school and her struggle to comes to terms with the crime. When Alex Patrick is date-raped after a night of drinking, she turns to a secret on-campus group for help. Through the support of her friends and the advocacy of the Mockingbirds, Alex is able to face what happened to her and seek justice. The book depicts how easily such assaults happen and how they can seep into and possibly destroy victims' lives. The author provides a list of resources for help lines and empowerment organizations at the end of the book. There's very little violence, but Alex's increasingly vivid memories of the rape are described in detail, which might be too intense for younger readers. Swearing isn't frequent but includes "f--k" and its variations, "s--t," "a--hole," "crap,"and "douche bag." The only sex is some mild kissing and a few scenes of heavy making out. No smoking or drug use is depicted, but an evening of drinking is recounted.

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What's the story?

At Themis Academy, an elite East Coast boarding school, the teachers and administrators ignore anything that might cast the school in a bad light. Bullying, assaults, and other transgressions go unpunished, to the point that students don't even bother taking issues to the administration any more. This hands-off approach led students to create an underground justice group called the Mockingbirds. Alex Patrick seeks out their help when she's date-raped in a dorm room. The book opens with her in the boy's room, trying to figure out what happened. From there, we follow her as she realizes she was raped and watch her deal with the shame, doubt, and fear, eventually deciding to take on the difficult task of seeking justice. Her friends are supportive and helpful, in some cases pushing her along when all she wants to do is disappear, especially when the boy's friends harass her. While working on her case, she learns of other cases the Mockingbirds have tried and discovers that by speaking up, she is helping other kids on campus.

Is it any good?

This gripping page-turner shows how easily date rape can happen, its effects, and why victims have trouble coming forward. When Alex is date-raped in a dorm room at her boarding school, she's plunged into feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and doubt. The details come back to her slowly, as the rape happened while she was drunk. Did she ask for it? Is everyone talking about her now? Will she ever be her old self again? THE MOCKINGBIRDS clearly shows the ripple effect rape has on the life of the victim. The story is built on the premise that Themis Academy doesn't discipline students because the school's reputation would be tarnished should anyone learn of rapes, bullying, or cheating. This is taken to an extreme that's hard to believe, but it sets up the need for the underground justice group, the Mockingbirds. When Alex decides to take her case to the group, she learns about their methods and their supposedly fair way of dealing with complaints. The Mockingbirds claim not to be a vigilante group, and yet they take some minor action against the accused before the case is heard. They do, however, hear both sides in a trial of peers, giving both sides the opportunity to make their cases and bring evidence.

The book is a fast, enthralling read. Alex's decision not to tell the school, the police, and her parents can be upsetting, but this is a realistic look at what many victims go through. She is a relatable character, and her point of view carries the book well. It's easy to feel everything she's going through. Aside from Alex and her two roommates, who are supportive and endearing, most of the characters are not as well fleshed out. As Alex's case with the Mockingbirds gets underway, her character grows and she finds her voice, stands up for herself, and learns that it's important to help those in her community as they helped her.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about consent. Not being able to say "no" is not the same thing as saying "yes." Why do you think this is important?

  • Do you ever feel it's pointless to take problems to school administrators or others in authority positions? Why? What other avenues do you feel you have available to you to deal with issues?

  • What's your favorite way of coping with problems? Do you like to listen to or play music? Go for a run? How does your coping mechanism help you?

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