Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
Debut author Daisy Whitney doesn't hold back the punches when it comes to The Mockingbirds. Hard-hitting and honest, this is easily one of the best teen novels of the year. The book takes its name from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and is heavily influenced by the classic. That alone = made of win.
The book is named after a group of students at Themis Academy who call themselves The Mockingbirds. The group is sort of like a secret society. Most students don't know who is in it, only that The Mockingbirds exist. The group is in charge of the school's justice system and making sure that students honor the Code of Conduct because the teachers think the students are perfect and can do no wrong. They have an elaborate trial and jury system and have molded themselves using context from To Kill A Mockingbird. For example, when they are accepting applications for new recruits, they make several allusions to the novel:
Join the Mockingbirds! Stand up, sing out! We're scouting new singers, so run, run, run on your way to our New Nine, where you can learn a simple trick...
(Did you get all of them?) When a case is about to go to trial, they hang gum in tin foil from the trees in the quad, which represents the first thing Boo Radley left in the Knothole for Scout and Jem. There's even a very specific use for a physical copy of Harper Lee's tome. Whitney weaves the classic into her novel in an interesting way that always had me smiling.
The book itself deals with some hard themes. The Mockingbirds is centered around a girl named Alex who goes out with some friends, drinks a little too much, and wakes up next to a boy she doesn't know. She later comes to terms with the fact that she was date raped; the book focuses on the fact that such a thing can still occur when someone is asleep and/or unconscious. In the Afterword, Whitney mentions that she herself was once date-raped, which was one of the reasons she wrote this novel. Because she'd experienced it herself, what Alex goes through feels emotional and real, but never trite. I once had a writing professor who stated that there are a few topics that most writers have trouble tackling. Rape was one of those issues. Whitney handles the topic realistically in a way that endears Alex to readers.
The novel is self-contained, but reading Whitney's blog earlier today, I discovered that she has submitted a second "Mockingbirds" novel for publication. If you're the type of person who doesn't like sequels, you can still read this book and not worry about an open ending. It's my belief that the "sequel" will be more of a book that takes place at the same school with many of the same characters making an appearance, especially since we meet many Mockingbirds in this novel. Whitney's voice is fresh and easy to read, so I am already eagerly anticipating her sophomore release.