{Review} THE RIVALS by Daisy Whitney

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

When she asks me about the Mockingbirds, I will deny everything. 
(pg. 1, US hardcover 1st edition)

Also check out my review of Daisy Whitney's debut novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS.  The formatting of my blog wasn't what it is now, but it was one of my 2010 Favorites!!!

Daisy also participated in an interview during Psychtember!

This is a book I was about to review when my computer crashed, so it never quite happened...and then I got too busy!  So I'm sorry about that.  I wanted to be singing the praises of THE RIVALS to the moon and making sure everyone reading this was so inspired by my review that they rushed out and bought the book right away. (I'm pretty sure there's still time to do that, so what are you waiting for? Go!)

While you don't have to read THE MOCKINGBIRDS in order to read THE RIVALS, I personally would recommend doing so.  While it fully stands on its own, the main character, Alex, does refer to events from the first book.  This pretty much creates the backstory needed to explain things to new readers starting with THE RIVALS.  The first book sets up the school judicial system known as the Mockingbirds, which really isn't re-explained in concise detail because author Daisy Whitney and narrator Alex assume the reader already knows this stuff.  I think that the judicial system is one of the things that made THE MOCKINGBIRDS such an amazing book, especially since its roots lie in one of my favorite classics, Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

THE RIVALS is one of those sequels that meets or exceeds expectations, which is even rarer when considering how amazing the first book was.  I loved going back to Themis Academy and reuniting with beloved characters.  Alex is still dealing with the fallout from the first book, where she was date-raped and had to go to the Mockingbirds for help.  Because she had been a victim, she was chosen as the leader of the Mockingbirds for the start of the new school year, but not everyone at Themis thinks she deserves the position...or that she was ever a victim in the first place.  THE RIVALS excels in looking at Alex recover from events that destroyed her as she slowly begins to heal and move on in life, though she'll never be quite the same again.  Whitney handles this realistically, and readers really care about Alex and her plight.  Too many authors would have just had Alex put all her baggage on the back burner and move on, happy again with life.  Whitney doesn't hold back the punches and Alex realistically has to re-adjust to life and find her way all over again.

Alex's first case as leader of the Mockingbirds puts her in uncharted territory; there's a drug ring on campus, so there's no one in particular to bring charges against, and no one person that is a victim.  Students across campus are popping Addy (Adderall, used for ADHD) in order to focus and obtain better grades.  This is, essentially, a form of cheating, but it's also dangerous...and illegal, since Adderall needs a prescription in order to be consumed.  The Mockingbirds have to decide if they want to take on a case with faceless victims, and if they do, who to trust.  When the ring hits too close to home, Alex finds herself freefalling and in way over her head.

Whitney raises multiple ethical dilemmas in THE RIVALS, ones with no clear-cut answers.  There are so many shades of gray that it's impossible to determine white from black.  One reason I love Whitney so much is because she really knows how to dive into an issue and make readers think.  Her character development is superb and she isn't afraid to let her characters be human and make mistakes.  They screw up, just like in real life.  They don't always have the right answers.  No one is perfect, and it's so refreshing to see that in a novel.  She is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I will read anything she puts out in the future.  I would love to see her return to Themis Academy at least one more time because, while the book has a full ending, I didn't want to stop reading and wanted to see what happened next!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

At first, I was really upset when I saw that the covers for THE MOCKINGBIRDS and THE RIVALS had been changed.  I like it when my books match, and I had seen that the ARCs for THE RIVALS had a dog on the cover (Which actually makes a LOT of sense when you read it!).

I also loved the way the titles for both books sat above the image of a tree, which also plays an important part in both Whitney's books and Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

That said, I can see why the covers changed.  Not enough people read THE MOCKINGBIRDS, even though it was fantastic.  By giving the books a more contemporary treatment, the titles will garner more interest--and more sales.

At first, I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but unless someone tells me otherwise, I'm pretty positive that both books are supposed to be yearbook pictures.  There's a bit of random junk at the edge of each book.  For THE RIVALS, if you look close enough, you can see the top of someone's head on the bottom of the image, as well as someone else's hair toward the left going into the spine.  I also wonder if the image is supposed to be sitting on top of the one gracing the cover of THE MOCKINGBIRDS, since the hair color matches the girl's, and the girl is sitting beneath someone's whose shirt looks to be the same color as the guy's.  Could it be?  The back cover is all wrinkled paper, as are the two interior dust jacket flaps and the spine, so no help there.  There are, however, hand-drawn pills around the excerpt/summary on the back and inside flap in the same shade of blue as the title, so who knows?

I like the fact that the books both retained the image of a mockingbird, and the fact that on THE RIVALS, the mockingbird has creepy dead eyes.  I also think it's interesting that the new cover for THE MOCKINGBIRDS looks like it was written in lipstick, though now that I think in "yearbook" terms, both covers are probably written in sharpie...hmm, and maybe someone drew mockingbirds on both because they're members of the mockingbirds?  Which gives the creepy dead mockingbird a whole new meaning!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Daisy Whitney
Release Date: Out Feb. 06, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Received: Received for Review;
Have since purchased a finished copy
(And gotten it SIGNED!!!)

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.


  1. Oh I thought this was the 1st book and not the sequel. I'Ve been meaning to read this series anyways I've heard so many great reviews and it really sounds like a wonderful story!

  2. I seriously need to read the first one.
    Thanks for review.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog


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