Bonnie (A Backwards Story)'s Reviews > The Rivals

The Rivals by Daisy Whitney
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May 09, 12

bookshelves: 2012, contemporary, fabulous-books
Read from January 27 to 28, 2012

Also check out my review of Daisy Whitney's debut novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS.

Daisy also participated in an interview during Psychtember!

This is a book I was about to review when my computer crashed, so it never quite happened...and then I got too busy! So I'm sorry about that. I wanted to be singing the praises of THE RIVALS to the moon and making sure everyone reading this was so inspired by my review that they rushed out and bought the book right away. (I'm pretty sure there's still time to do that, so what are you waiting for? Go!)

While you don't have to read THE MOCKINGBIRDS in order to read THE RIVALS, I personally would recommend doing so.  While it fully stands on its own, the main character, Alex, does refer to events from the first book. This pretty much creates the backstory needed to explain things to new readers starting with THE RIVALS. The first book sets up the school judicial system known as the Mockingbirds, which really isn't re-explained in concise detail because author Daisy Whitney and narrator Alex assume the reader already knows this stuff. I think that the judicial system is one of the things that made THE MOCKINGBIRDS such an amazing book, especially since its roots lie in one of my favorite classics, Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

THE RIVALS is one of those sequels that meets or exceeds expectations, which is even rarer when considering how amazing the first book was. I loved going back to Themis Academy and reuniting with beloved characters. Alex is still dealing with the fallout from the first book, where she was date-raped and had to go to the Mockingbirds for help. Because she had been a victim, she was chosen as the leader of the Mockingbirds for the start of the new school year, but not everyone at Themis thinks she deserves the position...or that she was ever a victim in the first place. THE RIVALS excels in looking at Alex recover from events that destroyed her as she slowly begins to heal and move on in life, though she'll never be quite the same again. Whitney handles this realistically, and readers really care about Alex and her plight. Too many authors would have just had Alex put all her baggage on the back burner and move on, happy again with life. Whitney doesn't hold back the punches and Alex realistically has to re-adjust to life and find her way all over again.

Alex's first case as leader of the Mockingbirds puts her in uncharted territory; there's a drug ring on campus, so there's no one in particular to bring charges against, and no one person that is a victim. Students across campus are popping Addy (Adderall, used for ADHD) in order to focus and obtain better grades. This is, essentially, a form of cheating, but it's also dangerous...and illegal, since Adderall needs a prescription in order to be consumed. The Mockingbirds have to decide if they want to take on a case with faceless victims, and if they do, who to trust. When the ring hits too close to home, Alex finds herself freefalling and in way over her head.

Whitney raises multiple ethical dilemmas in THE RIVALS, ones with no clear-cut answers. There are so many shades of gray that it's impossible to determine white from black. One reason I love Whitney so much is because she really knows how to dive into an issue and make readers think. Her character development is superb and she isn't afraid to let her characters be human and make mistakes. They screw up, just like in real life. They don't always have the right answers. No one is perfect, and it's so refreshing to see that in a novel. She is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I will read anything she puts out in the future. I would love to see her return to Themis Academy at least one more time because, while the book has a full ending, I didn't want to stop reading and wanted to see what happened next!
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Reading Progress

01/27/2012 page 166
47.0% "Daisy, I LOVE you! I already have fallen for this new look at Alex as she settles into her new role <3"
01/28/2012 page 222
63.0% "Reading Daisy Whitney makes us smarter! I learn new facts even as I'm on the edge of my seat enjoying the story!"

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