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The Rivals by Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, February 6, 2012
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
I absolutely adored The Mockingbirds, so of course I was anxious to red the sequel. And I gotta say, I really did enjoy The Rivals. Of course I'm going to try to avoid spoilers as always, but if you haven't read The Mockingbirds, you probably shouldn't read any more.
So. Alex and the gang are starting their senior year at Themis. Alex, in particular, is facing a tough year, what with auditioning for Juilliard, trying to get over last year's date rape while enjoying her relationship with Martin, and, oh yeah, being the new leader of the Mockingbirds. She's absolutely got her hands full.
I have to be honest here--I really didn't like Alex for much of this book. I felt she kept alternating personas when it suited her fancy. I suspect that Daisy Whitney did that on purpose, because Alex's healing process felt quite authentic. Sometimes she felt completely overwhelmed that the date rape was something she'd have to carry with her forever, but other times she came across as almost invincible, like because she handled the date rape she could handle anything. So yeah, watching that healing process was great. However, there were many, many things that Alex as a friend, girlfriend, and leader-of-an-underground-justice-system that I felt were, well, downright crappy. I felt there was some growth at the end of the book, but I thought that Alex should have treated her friends better from the beginning, especially because of how they stood up for her, and behind her, last year.
Alex's first case as the leader of the Mockingbirds is an intriguing one, and, naturally, one that's completely different from anything else the group has seen before. Daisy Whitney does a great job of allowing the readers to decipher the mystery right alongside the Mockingbirds. I've read too many mystery novels (mostly non-YA stuff) where the author lays everything out for the reader, who then spends the rest of the book waiting for the main character to catch up. I like learning what Alex learns when she learns it. It's definitely dizzying, and there were some scenes that had me going, "Wait, what?" and re-reading to make sure I was all caught up. But it's a fun mystery.
I LOVE books with boarding school settings! I love the idea of teens living on their own, but not really, testing out their independence with a safety net to catch them should they fall. I imagine that there are some prep schools out there that will ignore everything except academic and athletic excellence. I hope that the school Daisy Whitney created is the exception, and not the rule.
As for the ending, I won't reveal any spoilers, but I'll just say that I get why it was handled the way it was. The grown-up in me is screaming for a different ending. Once you read it, you'll see. It is open-ended enough for the possibility of a third book, although Daisy has said she thinks she's ready to move on to new characters.
This book won't be released until February, but you can be sure I'll be reminding you about it! Wouldn't hurt to add it to your to-read pile now, though!
ARC received through Around the World ARC Tours.
Enjoy your reading!