bedroom window: ice crystals at sunrise
On the first page of The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (2010), the main character wakes up naked in bed with a boy she barely knows at her boarding school. There are two condom wrappers in the trash can, but Alex has no memory of losing her virginity. Carter is not aware that it was rape because Alex came to his dorm room willingly and never said no. However, she was too drunk to consent. Alex is too ashamed to ask adults for help. Luckily a secret student organization, called The Mockingbirds after Harper Lee’s novel, is there to aid victims of abuse.
While preparing for the student-run trial, Alex has a consensual relationship with Martin, a member of the Mockingbirds. He won’t even touch her without asking permission. At times Martin’s mature behavior sounded too good to be true, but all boys should aspire to that level of sensitivity. Their romance is beautifully portrayed and balances the painful flashbacks that are interspersed throughout the narrative.
The Mockingbirds should be required for high school Sex Education classes because it models both good and bad behavior and shows how victims can be supported by their peers. This educational novel still avoids sounding pedantic, probably because the author brings emotional truth to the moving narrative. The books's fictional system of peer justice was modeled on one at Brown University, where the author brought forth her own date rape case in 1990. I cried reading the Author's Note. The college students I knew who were date raped in the late 1980’s had no recourse for justice without witnesses. Times have changed.
My only criticism is that the story might have been more believable had it been set in 1990 rather than now. It’s hard to imagine administrators at a prestigious boarding school these days turning a blind eye to bullying and to date rape. Also the musical references were more the taste of my generation. Still, the well-developed characters, fine writing and accessible voice will appeal to teens today.
Laurie Halse Anderson. Unlike Alex, Melinda suffers her humiliation in silence until she finds her voice. Humor and fine writing makes Speak easy to read. Anderson wrote the book for 12-15 year olds because many date rape victims are in that age group. Anderson followed up with Twisted (2007) about a boy falsely accused of sexual harassment, the other side of the coin.
I strongly recommend all three books to teenagers and to the adults who care for them. Congratulations to Daisy Whitney for an impressive debut novel!
Disclosure: I bought all three books myself.
January in Maine:
Last Wednesday a blizzard dumped 18 inches; that was a Snow Day. Then yesterday morning it started snowing before shifting to rain overnight. Another 2 inches are due today.
School has not been cancelled. The roads are plowed and our driveway was cleared by morning. We lift shovels instead of weights.
I look out the window (left) and turn back to a white page to write. For a break, I carve more lines with my skis. You have to love winter sports and reading by the fire to live in Maine.