Vigilante

For those of you who’ve read and binge-watched Thirteen Reasons Why and are looking for something similar, I suggest you give Vigilante by Kady Cross a try. This book, which was released a couple of weeks ago, made me so mad that I could scream, but it also made me want to fight back against a society that shames victims while excusing their attackers. I’m not advocating taking things to the extremes that the main character in this book did, but I can certainly understand the appeal. When you feel like nothing is being done, sometimes the only thing to do is to take the situation into your own hands.

Everything changed after the party. The party where Hadley and her best friend, Magda, went their separate ways. The party where Magda was drugged and raped by four “good boys,” and the shameful act was posted to social media. Months after that party, despite all of the physical and video evidence, those “good boys” remained free, and Magda had to live with what had been done to her.

Hadley tried to be there for her friend, but Magda was slipping farther and farther away.  Soon, she would be completely out of Hadley’s reach. The pain and humiliation became too much for Magda, and she ended her life. Now, Hadley is starting her senior year of high school without her best friend, and she has to sit in the same classes with the boys who destroyed her world.

Numb since her friend’s death, Hadley finally begins to feel something again when she gets the chance for a little revenge. At a party, one of Magda’s attackers is left passed out and alone. Hadley takes that as her cue. She writes “rapist” on him in Magda’s lipstick and posts a photo of the guy–using his own phone–to every site she can. Her classmates take care of the rest.

After the photo goes viral, Hadley decides to take things a step farther. Donning a pink ski mask and using her martial arts training, Hadley begins to go after the other guys who raped her friend. Along the way, she encounters (and stops) more attempted sexual assaults. Finally, after so long feeling like she failed her friend, Hadley is doing something that makes a difference…something even the cops can’t seem to manage.

But things are getting far more complicated than Hadley ever envisioned. Taking punches is becoming all too commonplace for her. People are starting to suspect that she is the person the media has dubbed “Pink Vigilante.” And the very guys she’s targeting are putting their own target on Hadley. She knows what they did to Magda. What more would they try to do to her?

Even as her quest for revenge threatens to overtake her world, Hadley simply can’t stop. No, she won’t stop…not until every one of Magda’s attackers has paid for what they’ve done. She’ll deal with the consequences of her actions when she’s finished, but she has to see this through.

Will Hadley find justice? Or will her desire for vengeance lead to her own destruction? Find out when you read Vigilante.


As I sort of mentioned at the beginning of this post, I do not advocate violence or taking the law into your own hands. That being said, I couldn’t help but cheer for Hadley as she put a hurt on the horrible guys she encountered. She refused to accept that she and the other women around her simply had to be victims, so she did something about it. Yes, many of her actions were questionable (and illegal), but others were inspirational, like getting involved in self-defense classes, finding a group of girls to watch each others’ backs at parties, and calling people out–even her own mother–for victim-blaming.

Aside from Hadley, one of the characters in Vigilante that I particularly liked was Detective Davies. This woman was involved in Magda’s case and was disgusted by how it turned out. She taught Hadley’s self-defense class and encouraged all who attended to band together. She told them how to fight, and, at a school assembly, she gave the single most important way to stop sexual assault and rape. Don’t sexually assault or rape anybody. Full stop. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if a girl (or guy) is drunk, wearing revealing clothing, or strutting around naked. She’s not asking for it. No excuses, fame, or family money should be enough to erase sexual assault. (I’m thinking of quite a few public figures as I type this.)

I do think Vigilante is suited to a mature teen audience, but many of its themes need to be discussed with girls–and boys–as early as middle school. While this book may not be the best fit for middle grades, I urge you to seek out others that may be more age-appropriate.

If Vigilante sounds like the book for you, I also urge you to read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (obviously), Some Boys by Patty Blount, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, and The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.

For more information on author Kady Cross, visit her website.

Finally, if you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault and you need help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. You can also go to RAINN.org for more information.

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The Mockingbirds

I picked up my latest read simply because I heard rave reviews about it.  It’s not my standard fare.  There are no aliens, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, or other (allegedly) mythical creatures involved.  This book is realistic fiction, and deals with a subject that many people are skittish about bringing up–date rape.  The Mockingbirds is a powerful book that demonstrates how much power students can have when they truly decide to stand up for themselves.  I think any female, and even male, readers will learn something from this book, especially that the lack of a “no” does not equal a “yes.”

Alex Patrick can’t remember what happened.  She knows she was at a concert and she had too much to drink.  She remembers flirting with a guy, Carter, but that’s where things go fuzzy.  How did she end up in Carter’s room?  What happened last night?  And why is he acting like they had the time of their lives?  Alex isn’t sure what’s going on, but she knows that something has gone terribly wrong.

When Alex tells her roommate and sister about the events of the previous evening, they bring up the worst four-letter word Alex can imagine–rape.  But she’s not sure.  If she doesn’t remember saying no, is it really rape?  Alex doesn’t want to face what happened to her, but after Carter begins telling anyone who will listen about what supposedly happened that night, Alex decides, with the help of a few friends, to take her case to the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who act as the law at the prestigious Themis Academy.

Themis Academy is known for producing Ivy League students.  So, of course, the students at Themis are above all of the typical teenage pranks, cruelty, and drama.  Most of the teachers and administration at Themis are convinced that their students are above reproach and could never do anything truly horrible.  The only thing that gets a student kicked out of this school is failing a class.  Well, the students know what really goes on.  They know people are bullied, attacked, treated unfairly, and even driven to suicide by other students.  That’s why they have the Mockingbirds.  If the adults won’t right the wrongs at this school, the students will.

As Alex and the Mockingbirds proceed with their case against Carter, Alex learns more about why the Mockingbirds exist, how the organization was created, and how they really enforce the “law” at Themis.  Throughout this process, Alex begins to return to a somewhat normal life:  She has a sort-of boyfriend, she is preparing for a huge piano recital, and she’s moving on.

But sometimes it seems as if she’s drowning in what happened to her.  She’s remembering more and more and beginning to doubt her decision to go to the Mockingbirds.  How can she ever be sure about what happened that night?  What will happen at the trial against Carter?  Will she always be known as that girl who was raped?  Find out the truth when you read The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.

As I said before, this is a very powerful book, and it’s even more powerful when you learn that the author is writing from personal experience.  (Read the author’s note at the end for more information.)  The connections to To Kill a Mockingbird don’t hurt either.  While I was a bit disturbed at how most of the adults were portrayed in this book, I can honestly admit that it’s probably not too far off the mark.  From my own experiences in high school, I can say that most of the teachers have no idea what’s going on.  Even if they do, there’s not much, if anything, they can do about it.  I wish there had been an organization similar to the Mockingbirds when I was in school.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been the target of bullies so much.

I really encourage young adults, especially girls, to read The Mockingbirds.  It’s a great story, and resources on date rape are provided at the end of the book.  I would caution younger readers that this book does contain mature content, so this book may not be appropriate for middle school readers.

For more information on The Mockingbirds or author Daisy Whitney, visit http://daisywhitney.com/blog/, where I just learned that there will soon be a second Mockingbirds book.  Can’t wait!