Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release: February 6, 2012
Others in the Series: The Mockingbirds
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.
Welcome back to Themis Academy, a prestigious boarding school for exceptional teenagers. Here, you will be greeted with open arms, but this school is not as perfect as it may superficially seem. Even the rich, talented, and intelligent—especially the rich, talented, and intelligent—break the rules, and when the staff does not care, students must take action once again. In The Rivals, a set of justice-seeking students returns stronger than ever, ready to right the wrongs that the administration ignores.
The best thing about this book and its companion novel is the concept of the Mockingbirds and the passion behind what they do. The success-driven administration at Alex's school does nothing to punish students' transgressions, which makes me furious for the protagonist and her peers. While a sense of constant irritation implanted itself inside my brain during the first book, it grew even stronger as I turned the pages of a sequel in which Alex is part of the Mockingbirds, dealing firsthand with the adults' passiveness. My swelling anger alone allowed The Rivals to outdo The Mockingbirds, but another aspect vaulted this book even higher in my favor.
The Rivals also features a crime that is more confusing and complicated than the one its predecessor explores. In the previous book, the author establishes the identities of both the criminal and the victim right away, and the novel zooms in on the trial and how it affects Alex. In Whitney’s second novel, however, the team must find a perpetrator using limited clues. Readers will appreciate the excitement and anticipation this alteration adds to the plot as well as the way solving a mystery and being forced to suspect everyone strains the main character's relationships with her friends. Just as her quest for answers touches every part of Alex's life, it permeates the entire book, turning The Rivals into an addictive page-turner.
Still, even with so much change, some of the emotions that made The Mockingbirds so wonderful carry over to this book. Alex's reeling shock and stark sense of exposure have only begun to heal, and the rapid fire of events that now drives her life does not prevent her from paying attention to the way people notice her and the things they say about her. Because of this emotional consistency, I can assure those who loved experiencing the main character's journey in The Mockingbirds that Whitney places no damper on the feelings in The Rivals.