Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
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Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
I finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear a few days ago but I haven’t been able to properly put my thoughts into words. I still can’t really do that but I’m going to try.
Trigger warning: As noted in the synopsis, this book deals with rape and teen pregnancy. If those aren’t things you can handle reading about, this book is not for you.
- Characters: If I had all the time in the world and I thought you guys would read a breakdown of each and every character in this book, I would give you one. That would take so long though so I’m just going to focus on some of the key players and their strengths and weaknesses. Hermione is obviously the most important person in Exit, Pursued by a Bear. She is the captain of her school’s cheerleaders and she is a pretty popular girl at her school. She’s still very down to earth though. She knows what people think about cheerleaders and she is there to prove them all wrong. She’s smart and funny and amazingly strong. She doesn’t just want to be another statistic but she also doesn’t want her rape and pregnancy to define who she becomes. With the help of her family and friends, she’s willing to do what it takes to get the guy but also move on. Her family is a huge help but it’s her best friend, Polly, who really helps her through. Hermione and Polly are best friend goals. They love and support each other through everything. When Hermione can’t be strong, she has Polly. Same goes for Polly. The two of them love each other unconditionally. It’s not often you see friendships like theirs portrayed in YA books but I loved seeing it. And right now I can’t think of his name but I adored Hermione’s psychiatrist. He was exactly what she needed. He helped her feel like even though everything was wrong in her life, she wasn’t doing anything wrong and she was on the path to where she needed to be. You could see that he really wanted to help her.
- Story: I knew going in that this would be a tough story to read and I was right. I cried so many times. I’m glad I read it though. Not only is Hermione raped, everyone knows about it. It happens at cheer camp and quickly spreads around school and their small town. She has no choice but to be faced with peoples’ pity. She knows that she could let this be the moment that defines who she is or she can find a way to make herself known for something else, something good. When she finds out she’s pregnant, it makes things even more difficult for her. She never lets this stop her though. She still cheers, gets good grades, and focuses on her future. E.K. Johnston showed a very different side of the story than I ever expected and it showed that a terrible event doesn’t have to be the defining moment of your life.
- Romance: I’m just briefly going to mention this because there wasn’t much romance in Exit, Pursued by a Bear. At the start of the book Hermione is dating fellow cheerleader, Leo, but that doesn’t last and I was happy about that. They were not good for each other. After the rape, Hermione is a little hesitant to have anything to do with boys her own age. She puts up with it for cheerleading but that’s pretty much all she is doing. However, Dion, a fellow cheerleader, is the only boy who really makes Hermione feel safe and like she might be okay with guys in the future. Their friendship and possible romance is sweet and perfect for the story.
Overall, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is going to the top of my highly recommended list. I know my review doesn’t even come close to doing it justice but take my word, you should read it.
What others are saying about Exit, Pursued by a Bear:
The Book Wars’ review: “In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, we see how the truth loses none of its potency when surrounded by people who are willing to trust in it. Highly, highly recommended!”
Pretty Deadly Reviews’ review: “This is a very different, very uplifting story about a girl coming to terms with being raped, and it is a necessary voice in a world telling girls they don’t own themselves.”