Whew. This book was a ride.
Things to know before picking up Exit, Pursued by a Bear:
1. It's a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. (So, it doesn't follow the play to a T, but honestly, where would the fun be if it did?)
2. Our main character, Hermione Winters (do you see the retelling, now?) is a cheerleader in a small town in Canada (it took me embarrassingly long to figure this out) who gets raped while at cheer camp the summer before her senior year.
3. It's a very short book (less than 300 pages), and it's definitely possible to read this in one sitting/one day.
Since they are few, let's first talk about
THE THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE:
1. The writing wasn't anything spectacular, and at times it did have the feel of an older person writing about teenagers.
2. It doesn't touch on a lot of the topics that surround rape. Rather, it picks a few of those topics and goes into greater detail about the few rather than the many.
3. Hermione is a little bit too strong. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but though we do see her break and fall apart, I wanted to see more of that. (Jeez, that sounds cruel.)
THINGS I LIKED:
1. Hermione is such a strong character.
2. I found the story and character reactions a bit unrealistic at times based on what I've read and researched
"It was very important to me that Hermione have an excellent support system in this book. Her parents, friends, teachers, coach, minister, and community rally around her. She receives the medical care she requires. The police are gracious and helpful. This is not standard behavior. Many rape victims are isolated, unable to ask for the help they need, much less receive it. [...] I gave Hermione a Polly, but I think Polly might be the least fictional person in this book."Therefore, I think the support and lack of questions and stares and whispers that Hermione experiences in this book doesn't line up with the treatment of, especially small town, rape victims. However, Johnston recognizes this and so this book is almost like "Here is how I wish rape victims were treated" with a little bit of "Here is how they are actually treated" and I really appreciated this approach.
3. It's about the journey not the destination. If this is the type of thing that makes you not enjoy a book, please pick up a different book. This book really deals with Hermione's development and her progression after the rape rather than the mentality of "we need to find the rapist" and that being the only thing that matters.
4. In addition to it being a very quick read, I found the story was nicely paced.
5. It works really well as a modern-day retelling and re-imagining of Shakespeare's play.
6. Emily's team is like her family, and I love the female friendships (YAY) in this as well as the male friendships!
7. Polly, as Johnston noted, is by far the most real character in this book, and is one of the most real characters I've read in a long time.
8. This book made me legit cry because there is an accurately represented minister of a church. The fact that she could have made him a stereotypical, judge-y, small-town preacher that condemns Hermione and didn't means a lot to me personally.
9. I have to congratulate Johnston on her creativity with the names because almost all of the original ones are absolutely ridiculous. Good job. (If you're curious, most of them are abbreviated nicknames, e.g. Polly, Tig, Leo.)
Published: 15 March 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Format - Length: Hardback - 248 pages
Genre: YA Contemporary
Goodreads | My Goodreads Review
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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.
Have you read this book? Are you intrigued by this book? I say give it a try! Tell me what you think down in the comments!