30 December 2011

BOOK REVIEW - The Rivals by Daisy Whitney

Synopsis 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.

The Rivals is the sequel to Daisy Whitney's debut novel The Mockingbirds, which was released last year.  I received an ARC of The Rivals for review.  The Rivals will be released on February 6, 2012.

The Rivals picks up at the beginning of the new school year after The Mockingbirds ended.  This year, Alex is in charge of the Mockingbirds.  Right as the school year begins, she is confronted with a case that is different from anything the Mockingbirds have handled before- an alleged drug ring that students are using to cheat.  Throughout the book, Alex must confront both friends and enemies, decide who is being truthful and who has been lying to her, and come to terms with her role in the Mockingbirds as well as her standing with her friends.  Alex is more mature in The Rivals, and I felt as though her decision-making in this book was more rational and less emotional than in The Mockingbirds.  Of course, being as this book takes place in high school, there is still a touch of romance, friendship problems, and growing pains.

Overall I was very pleased with The Rivals.  The characters grew well in the aftermath of the events from The Mockingbirds, new characters were introduced, and new layers were added to returning characters- even some more minor ones, such Ms. Damata, the music teacher, which added depth to the plot.

Daisy Whitney deals with difficult issues in her books, but in a way that is approachable to young adult readers.  In fact, I think the real lesson in The Rivals has less to do with the surface "don't use drugs" issue, and more about how to make informed decisions with the information presented to you and how to deal with the aftermath of choices you make.

I would highly recommend reading The Rivals (and The Mockingbirds, if you haven't read that)!  Whether you're a YA reader or not, these books have a lot to offer.

FTC Disclaimer:  I received an advance readers copy (ARC) of The Rivals for review from Hip Scouts, a program of LB-Teens and Hachette Book Group.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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