Saturday, April 9, 2011
Mock -yeah- Ing -yeah- Bird
No, not that one.
This one, The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney
Tiny synopsis: Alex wakes up naked, in a boys room, and can't remember what happened. It becomes clear that she was raped. At her boarding school, justice doesn't come from the administration. Instead, it's doled out by the Mockingbirds. A group that examines cases and metes punishment for infractions against students.
This book was interesting. Alex's friends really push her to examine what happened to her closely, and help her dive into the system that is the Mockingbirds. I loved this idea, and I wanted it to be more riveting. But sometimes the story became really in-depth in describing the process the mockingbirds used (all the technical ins and outs, like their thorough system of checks and balances, for example). As a total politics nerd, I am ALL about the checks and balances, but it took me out of the story once or twice.
I have a quote, hovering around the dusty corners of my brain, and I think it may have come from Stephen King. It goes something like this: the first draft you tell the story to yourself, then you tell the story to the reader. The gist, I think, is that sometimes the details that we need to understand how things work as a writer, the reader may not always need. I am sure this is a delicate line to walk, a very precise balance, and I think for most of the book Daisy Whitney manages this. At times, however, I felt like those details dragged it down. That being said, I don't know how I would have given the reader information about how thorough the Mockingbird system was, without doing the same.
I think it's not evident from the back cover, or the first chapters, that this is a quiet book. Though I hate the word 'quiet' because it sounds weak. This book is not about weakness at all. Maybe I should say this is a resolute book, or a steadfast, unyielding, and determined book. I think that's a good thing, in this case. To be honest, I didn't want her to take the book in another direction. The book is about not only one girl's very personal problem, but also how we as a caring and just society could try to right wrongs.
What other way could she have taken it? It would REALLY take me out of the story if someone showed up, Bruce Willis style, to dole out some vigilante "justice". I think that would have been a very different story, maybe scarier, maybe more "exciting" but in a cheap thrills kind of way. A book that gets its title from To Kill a Mockingbird is not a cheap thrills kind of book. Period.
Ultimately, I think Whitney told the story SHE meant to tell, and I think she told it well.