Date of Publication: March 15th, 2016
Dates Read: August 24th – 25th, 2016
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.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Trigger warning: Rape.
I’m having a hard time deciding how to write this review. I think I’ll start off by saying that I haven’t read too many books on this topic, so I am not at all qualified to really discuss how it should and should not be written. It is an important topic, however, and I do (eventually) plan to work on reading more.
But you know what convinced me to finally read this one? This article on the Penguin Teen website, which Johnston wrote, where she talks about exactly why she decided to write it how she did. TL;DR: How she wrote this book is not how it happens in real life – but it is what real life could eventually have.
I mean, E. K. Johnston was going to be near my city, too, doing a YA Panel with a bunch of other authors, so that was also a factor in my decision to read it.
Needless to say, I read it and loved it.
I’d like to start with this: Exit, Pursued by a Bear is funny. Yeah, you heard me correctly, I laughed quite a few times while reading this book. There are moments where it’s a lighthearted tale of a high school girl who’s trying to win a competition and survive her final year of high school.
On the completely opposite end, this book legitimately had my eyes brimming with tears at least once, and brought on the feeling that comes before crying multiple times. I have never cried while reading, and the fact that this book got me so close to it probably says a lot. It has its heavier, more serious moments, the story of a girl who was raped and how she deals with it.
It was an emotional roller coaster, and I loved the ride.
Most of the characters became my sweet little children by the time I’d finished the book. I see a lot of myself in Hermione – organization, determination, competitive nature. Polly was probably my favourite, though, a wonderful and well-rounded character. Dion and Clarence were adorable and I wouldn’t mind being friends with them, and Amy is a precious snowflake that I want to protect at all costs. Listen, they’re not perfect – they screw up, say things without thinking about how they’ll affect people, act on impulse and let their emotions get the better of them, just like everyone. And that’s what makes them seem so realistic, at least to me (in fact, in the Author’s Note Johnston believes that Polly is the least fictional character)
One of the things I love about this book is all the love and support. Their relationships are so strong, and the girl power/love between the girls was so amazing to see. I actually think seeing the love is one of the things that made me cry. When girls support other girls, it’s a really powerful thing.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear shows us a character who wants to prove that she is so much more than a girl who was drugged and raped. Not every situation is going to be like this one, but this is the direction that the author decided to take it, and I see it as quite empowering. Hermione must fight through triggers and town gossip and cloudy memories, among other things, to keep moving forward with her life.
As you can see, I finished this book in 2 days. While it is short, I will tell you that I never wanted to put this book down. I kept following Hermione’s story, watching what happened next and which questions were answered. There’s drama and competition, strong friendships and family, and a touch of romance that’s not overpowering (in fact, the romance that I think was more developed wasn’t a heteroromantic one, so yay representation!)
Overall: I can’t say enough good things about this book; my words won’t do my love for it justice.