"Three things I know this second: I have morning breath, I'm naked, and I'm waking up next to a boy I don't know." - Daisy Whitney, The Mockingbirds
Alex's first time wasn't what she expected at all. In fact, she can't really remember it and she is pretty sure that she didn't want it. As the pieces begin to come together she realizes that she was date raped. Alex decides that she is going to tell no one, but she does have one option . . . The Mockingbirds. At Themis Academy, a boarding school, there is a secret group that upholds its own form of law among the students. The Mockingbirds are the law. When they give a judgment, and pass down a punishment, all the students know they must obey.
The Mockingbirds is a gem of a novel that I had the pleasure of reading when it first came out. It is a heart wrenching tale of a young lady trying to deal and heal with the fact that she was date raped. It is also a compelling tale of life at a boarding school with a secret society of students that enforces its own code of laws. The sequel to the Mockingbirds, The Rivals, has just been released and I had the pleasure for doing a Q&A with author Daisy Whitney to share here with you at TLT.
Q: Why did you choose to have your series setting in a boarding school? How did you go about developing the world of your school?
I went to a public high school in Miami that has its vending machines locked up behind grates so I was always very drawn to boarding school settings because they're so different from my school background. I also knew a lot of students in college who had gone to boarding school
AND there is such a rich tradition of boarding schools in literature, so The Mockingbirds was a great vehicle for me to explore this world. As for research, I spent a lot of time studying the elite boarding
schools in this country to get the feel right.
Q: What do you hope teen readers take from the character of Alex and her experiences as a victim of date rape?
I truly believe every reader takes away something different. For some, it may be that taking a stand is cool. For others, it may be that they can turn to their friends for support. Still others, might see that
it's possible to heal after bad things happen.
Q: Where did you get the idea of having a secret student group that takes on the idea of justice come from? Is that something you have heard back from readers exist in boarding schools around the country?
Good question! I haven't heard of any groups like The Mockingbirds. I devised the idea because I very much wanted the book to be a law & order and a trial type of story -- sort of Law & Order meets Dead
Poets Society. Once I knew there was going to be a trial, I needed to take it underground to be authentic, and the Mockingbirds were born from that need.
Q: How did To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee influence you personally? How did it influence The Mockingbirds?
To Kill a Mockingbird is a great work of literature but also the canonical story of justice and doing the right thing, especially when it's hard. It was a natural fit!
Q: In the end of The Mockingbirds Alex is given the opportunity to be a part of The Mockingbirds, how does this influence the story line in The Rivals?
Alex must move on in the second book from victim/survivor to leader and enforcer and deal with the challenges of her new role.
Q: Do you think The Mockingbirds have a correct notion of the idea of justice? Do you see it evolving as the series evolves?
I believe the Mockingbirds, as a group, are doing the best they can. I believe they are idealists and they want to do the right thing. It's not easy though to do the right thing with a student-run justice group
and the Rivals digs into the challenges even more.
Q: The Rivals touches on the topics of cheating and prescription drug use, what other topics do you think the Mockingbirds could foreseeably take on? Is it your goal to have the series continue?
I'm happy with a two-book series, though I could see this group taking on any number of cases from hate speech to bullying to theft to more.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to write? What steps did you take to fulfill that dream?
I've been making a living as a journalist for my entire career so writing was always part of my daily routine as an adult. For the longest time I thought I would be quite content to write non-fiction
news articles, but alas, I was bitten by the fiction bug as so many journalists are and started writing novels! My first three novels are unpubbed, but I kept writing and kept at it every day until I broke
through. As for steps -- it's simple - sit down, open computer, bleed words.
Q: Why did you choose to write YA literature?
The teen years are full of firsts -- first kiss, first dance, first love, first heartache. There is a tremendous intensity to being a teen and that's great fodder to tap into as a writer.
Q: What 3 words would you use to describe your series?
Intrigue, justice, power
Q: What are you currently reading?
Paris, My Sweet! (A memoir of living in Paris)
Let me say this, if you have not read The Mockingbirds - you should. It is a remarkable tale about healing while also being a thrilling tale about justice and power. Alex is a moving character. It is also an important tale as it empowers survivors and provides great material for group discussions. This is a great contemporary novel that stays with you long after you have turned the last page. That's why today is your lucky day! Leave a comment to this post and you will be entered to win a copy of The Mockingbirds, the first book in the series - you have to start from the beginning. Tell us what you thought of the book if you've already read it, or tell us what you thought of To Kill a Mockingbirds by Harper Lee (if you haven't read that, well - you really should). Or just drop us a line to say hi and enter. The contest will be open to comments all next week.
And special thanks to Daisy Whitney for writing this great novel and taking the time to share it with us today.
"Don't wake up. Don't wake up. Don't wake up." - Daisy Whitney, The Mockingbirds
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