The Rivals by Daisy Whitney< My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One of the main issues I had with The Mockingbirds is addressed here: how any one supposedly underground group have that much influence on the rest of the students? Think about it. There's a whole lot of buy-in that needs to happen, and if one of the accused chooses to ignore the Mockingbirds, the system falls apart. So I was glad that the author tackles that in the sequel.
It was also good to see that Alex, in her role as leader of the Mockinbirds, is not perfect. She makes mistakes in judgement, she allows personal feelings to get in the way of the supposedly dispassionate nature of the investigation, and she does some decidedly stupid things. Her relationship with Martin definitely felt real, as did her relationships with her friends. I also liked the tie-ins to two of the classics of YA literature, which made me think of them in more modern terms (and yes, I realize that was part of the author's intent).
So why the drop from four to three stars? Several reasons: 1. the adults are little more than cookie-cutters, 2. many of the characters had too much baggage (not that teens don't have baggage, but these had pressures from parents that didn't seem necessary to include in the book), and 3. while students may use "prep" and "prep school", administrators don't. They'd call Themis an independent school or a college preparatory school, not a prep school. I say this having attended one and worked in others. It grated. But that's not something most readers will notice.
My guess is that there's at least one more book with this main cast and it could all-too-tidily remake Themis or it could show a continued tension between the Mockingbirds and the Watchdogs. Either will be interesting.
ARC provided by publisher.