Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Rivals by Daisy Whitney

Title: The Rivals
Author: Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Little, Brown for Young Readers
Release date: February 6th 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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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.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's been a while since I read The Mockingbirds, but I still remember absolutely loving it. To be honest, I wasn't sure that kind of story needed a sequel - I didn't know if Daisy Whitney could come up with another plot concerning the Mockingbirds as strong as the one in the first novel. And while I do think that The Rivals is lacking a bit of the driving force that Alex's struggle for justice after her rape provided for The Mockingbirds, I did really enjoy this sequel!

The whole cheating/drug ring plot seemed kind of strange to me at first. I'm still not sure I entirely get the premise - the debate team is using ADHD medication to win their debates? How is that supposed to work? When people abuse Adderall - or Annie, as it's called in The Rivals - it's to help them focus on getting work done, and I don't really see how that helps the debate team. But even if the premise didn't make all that much sense to me, I did really enjoy the mystery that evolves around it. There are various plot twists in The Rivals that will keep you on your toes - I didn't see half of them coming!

I especially loved the way The Rivals changed the way you think about everything we learned in The Mockingbirds, how it challenges what you thought was right and wrong. Just like Alex, you ask yourself how far you're allowed to go in the name of (what you consider) justice, whether it's more important to trust the people close to you or to do your "job" of questioning everything, and so on. The lines between right and wrong are a lot more blurred in The Rivals than they were in The Mockingbirds, and I loved reading about Alex trying to figure out what would be the right thing to do.

Within the context of this case, it was interesting to see how Alex's relationships with those around her evolved. I still loved Alex's character, and the cast of secondary characters is fully developed and complex, just like in the first book. I especially liked Alex's relationship with Martin - too often, sequels create too much unnecessary drama between the couples that are established in the first book, so I'm glad that Alex's relationship with Martin progresses in such a natural way in The Rivals

Part of what makes these two books so powerful together, I think, is how in The Rivals, we get to see Alex still struggling to come to terms with her rape from The Mockingbirds. Daisy Whitney handled the issue of rape with as much grace and delicacy as she did in the first book; the scenes where Alex sees her rapist on campus and the scenes where she and Martin are trying to figure out how to have a "normal" relationship after what happened to Alex are some of the most powerful scenes in the novel, for me. The only thing that bothered me about this topic is how Alex's rape is continuously referred to as date-rape, just because I don't like how that term makes acquaintance-rape seem somehow less than the dark-alley rape many people still associate with the term.

The Rivals is everything a good sequel should be, and more. It's a complex and layered story that complicates everything we learned in The Mockingbirds. With fully developed characters, a captivating writing style, and a complex and fascinating plot, I can't recommend this series enough! I can't wait to read more from Daisy Whitney!


  1. I hadn't heard of this series before. It sounds interesting and I'm happy to hear there isn't unnecessary relationship drama. I hate that too.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth


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