My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
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.
My Take: The book picks up right where Mockingbirds leaves off. There is enough back story to jump into this book without reading the first one but I liked the first one because of the originality. This one lacked a clear conflict. There would be a beginning of a conflict and then it would fizzle. Eventually, I saw the pattern of the real conflict which was two-fold 1)Students are using ADHD medicine to improve academic performance and 2) Alex, the new leader, is imperfect, not knowing what she can ethically do or not do.
The first conflict was not as substantial as I would like. It was like trying to grab water. On the other hand, this aspect is addressed. The "victim" is not clearly identified like the other cases of the Mockingbirds. So Alex puts her figurative arms out with her eyes closed and starts walking in the dark. It seemed contrived and anti-climactic.
Meanwhile, Alex is struggling with leading an underground vigilante group without clear cut guidelines. More than anything, this storyline showed the flaws of a vigilante student group. It's a great idea but the checks and balances are weak and human nature can be manipulated in so many different ways.
Even though I found the story slow in the beginning, Whitney does an exemplary job with character development, placing main characters in multiple environments and testing their ethical strength. Sometimes they screw up. Other times, they don't. Yet other times, they exhibit humility by admitting wrong doing. And then there are the true culprits/bullies who, through excellent character development, I hated quite a bit.
I can see a third installment to round out Alex's senior year. One that balances the power of bad behavior, administration accountability and vigilante accountability. Ultimately, I think it will come down to power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
That's just my guess.