Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Book Birthday, Daisy Whitney!

Daisy Whitney is one of my favorite authors (her books are like my literary comfort food), who I started to adore after reading her debut novel, THE MOCKINGBIRDS, as part of the Contemps Challenge last year. She writes great contemporary novels with likeable characters & meaningful messages &, of course, kissing. She also happens to be one of the nicest, most friendly people I know-she even skyped with my students who read her book last year! And, most excitingly, the sequel to last year's debut, THE RIVALS, came out today!
So, happy, happy book birthday, Daisy!!! And happy book reading to all of you out there - make sure to read THE MOCKINGBIRDS if you haven't yet (and why haven't you?! It's so important and so good!), and then get THE RIVALS to see what happens to Alex next. In celebration of THE RIVALS being out today, I decided to repost my recommendations for both books here. Enjoy & then go buy the books!

My review of THE MOCKINGBIRDS from December 18, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 332
How I Got It: Won it from The Contemps Challenge

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 is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.
THE MOCKINGBIRDS is one of those books that is so powerful for young adults to read, but deals with a very sensitive topic. In the same way that SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson brought the topic of date rape and it's psychological impact on a high school girl to adolescents eleven years ago, Daisy Whitney is doing it now in a more straight-forward way in her debut novel, THE MOCKINGBIRDS. To then find out that the author herself has personal experience with this, makes it all the more clear how true and accurate the portrayal of Alex's experiences in the aftermath of this horrifying experience are throughout this novel. At the start of the book Alex wakes up next to a boy she doesn't know and isn't able to remember how she got there. As she goes through that day trying to figure out and remember what happened to her, it becomes apparent that she was incapacitated and date raped. At her boarding school, where the adults trust the students to behave honorably because they are so exceptional in all they do, she has no adults to turn to for help, especially because she herself isn't sure of what happened. So, with the help and support of her close and loyal friends, she debates about turning to The Mockingbirds, a secret society made up of students who have decided to police and judge their own and right the wrongs fellow students commit. Alex's journey to find her truth and path is searingly honest and provides a powerful example of struggling to discover one's own truth and sense of right and wrong, and what one will do to find it.

I read this book in one day - I just wasn't able to put it down because Alex's story is so engrossing and captivating, providing a powerful message for young adults. It provides an interesting look at how those who want to stand up for others and do the right thing can organize a system to police themselves that works. It sends a strong message that "the absence of a no does not mean yes." It touches on bullying issues as well, and shows another way of looking at high school students: if they know what others are doing is wrong, what are they willing to do about it? At Themis Academy, The Mockingbirds are willing to do what it takes to call out those who have wronged others and support the victims in every way. Whitney's writing style drew me in, made me interested in the story and what was happening, and gave me clues along the way that propelled the story forward along with my desire to read it. She wrote smart, real characters with real friendships and struggles and desires. This book has main and secondary characters who were written so I honestly cared about them, wanted to know more about them, wanted to root for them, and would love to hang out with them.

This book is about doing the right thing, finding yourself and your inner strength and beliefs by standing up for yourself and others, becoming stronger in knowing the truth and fighting for it, and surrounding yourself with ones you love who would stand up for and support you when you need them. I think the book speaks for itself: "Maybe, ultimately, that's what we're all aspiring to - to have our own sense of right and wrong and to act on it."

This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read this year, any year really, and I absolutely recommend that you read it! I look forward to reading more by Daisy Whitney! In fact, book 2 in The Mockingbirds is coming out in fall 2011 - it will definitely be on my to-read list!

Other Books You Might Like: SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson and THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDEAU-BANKS by e. Lockhart 

My review of THE RIVALS from November 25, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 352
Source of Book: Requested ARC from publisher
When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.
THE MOCKINGBIRDS was one of my absolute favorite books of last year, and I absolutely recommend it to everyone if you haven't read it yet (which, if you haven't, you need to go do immediately!!!)! And, Daisy is really fabulous - she even did a skype visit with my students after I was raving about her book on twitter. So, I was really excited to get an advanced copy of this sequel to read the continuation of Alex's story after the events she went through in the first book. Now, as the leader of The Mockingbirds (since she was helped by them in the first book) she has a whole new set of struggles to deal with. 
Alex is a great teen girl character. She has a lot of integrity, but is still a real girl with doubts, insecurities, hopes, mistakes, and the desire to do right. She stands up for what she believes in no matter what and is a truly loyal friend. Her honesty and desire to do what's right is inspiriting. It was great to read this book and get to watch Alex continue her recovery from last year's (book's) date rape and rediscover and recognize the strength she has in herself. It's not an easy journey for her, but with the help of true friends and others who are willing to stand up to those who are wrong, she makes the right choices in the end.
The Mockingbirds is an evolving entity in this book, as it needs to be. It is the only organization that is providing a safe outlet to those who have been wronged. There are interesting lessons on government, power, and human nature in this book. It really delves into what can students do when they feel adults won't help them - and I appreciated the message that there are some adults who will stand up and do what's right when they see kids needing help - even if the kids don't see it at first. It's an interesting journey of realizing you don't have to go it alone. 
Although it deals with some heavy topics, Daisy Whitney's writing is the comfort food of my reading life. There's just something so comforting in her contemporary style imbued with profound lessons in a non-preachy way, oh, and there's always kissing thrown in. It's all about who we choose to be in these books and how to find the courage to change our ways, be who we should, and do the right thing. That is true strength, bravery, and justice. It's about integrity, standing up for what's right, going for what you believe in, and doing right even in the face of adversity. All strong messages for teen girls.
I highly recommend Daisy Whitney's books if you haven't read them yet, and I'm so excited to know that she has several more different books in the works so we'll be able to continue reading her books for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Daisy Whitney handled the sensitive subject of date rape in a brilliant way.It is a must read for every teenage girl. It is written in a way that every girl will "get" the message Ms. Whitney wants them to understand.