Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
“I love you,” Polly says suddenly when I’m almost to the door.
“I know,” I say.
Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.
But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:
Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.
Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.
Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.
“I love you,” I say, because I really, really do.
“I know,” says Polly.
I really loved this book. It reminded me so much of Bring It On, one of my favorite movies, but heavier. The characters were so normal for cheerleaders. Perhaps because they live in Canada?
I connected with Hermione right away. She’s named for her father’s love of Harry Potter, and she’s very dedicated to her sport. So much so that she’s told her boyfriend they won’t be having sex during their two weeks at cheer camp before their senior year of high school. Hermione is co-captain of the cheerleading squad, along with her best friend, Polly. And they have a mission. To break the curse. Each grade at their school has lost one student to drunk driving and one girl has gotten pregnant. A fellow student already died a few years ago, but Hermione is determined that no one in their class will get pregnant. They only have 10 months left of high school. How hard can it be?
Then Hermione is drugged and raped the last night of camp. Johnston handles this topic very well. The story was unique because everyone believes Hermione right away since she was found unconscious in the lake. It was interesting to see how everything played out. It’s so different from other books dealing with rape. The other interesting element is that Hermione cannot remember what happened or who did it.
I loved Polly! She was the most amazing friend EVER. She stays with Hermione in the hospital and through everything else she is always there. She never gets petty or acts in any way other than loving and open and wonderful. Pretty much everyone on the squad was very supportive. Hermione’s parents were a little awkward, but believable. The teachers and guidance counselor were a little strange, but they’re in a very small town in Ontario, so I didn’t really question it.
This book is short, and Hermione’s voice is so easy to read despite the weighty content. I enjoyed being inside her head. I also liked how the book was broken into different parts with quotes from Shakespeare. Apparently this book is a retelling of A Winter’s Tale. I’ve never read that play.
I struggled with the rating, but I settled on 4 stars (instead of 5) since I don’t give out half stars. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed to shout from the rooftops and tell everyone to read this book, but I did really, really enjoy it.
My Rating: 4 stars
Understand my ratings.