Title: EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR
Author: E.K. Johnston
Release date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
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.
Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
E.K. Johnston’s EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is a powerful, emotional, tough yet positive story that is exceptionally well-written. It’s not easy reading a story about rape. It’s challenging, difficult, angry-making, heartbreaking. But the author presents it in a way that let’s you see beyond that violent act and get to know her character, connect with her, see her for who she is and was and not just as a victim. It is a moving and engaging story that, while it puts you through the ringer, allows you to feel hope.
Hermione is strong, but not unrealistically so. She has a great support structure in her parents, her friends, her coach, the police officer assigned to her case, her therapist, yet not one that feels as if she’s too fortunate to have it. She refuses to be labeled as a victim, act like one, or be treated like one. But she’s not afraid to rely on her supports to help her through the day-to-day.
EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR lets you get to know Hermione both before her attack and after – flaws and all. It lets you share in her recovery process. It focuses on the positive – healing, strength, resilience, goals, choices, power – but keeps things believable. It tells Hermione’s story in a way that is as helpful and informative as it is compelling. And while it doesn’t shy away from the subject matter, it doesn’t feel exploitative.
While the topic may be one that is too mature, too personal, or too sensitive for some readers, it is not one that should dissuade other readers from picking up this incredibly amazing book. EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is not too dark, too depressing, too weighty. The author struck just the right balance between seriousness and entertainment. It is uplifting. It is heart-rending. It is hopeful. It is beautifully written. Hermione Winters is inspiring.
And it is one of those extraordinary stories that might just help one reader find a way through the darkness or find a way to help someone they know through it. I cannot recommend this enough.
Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.
About E.K. Johnston
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
E.K. Johnston is represented by Adams Literary