"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

27 April 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Johnston, E.K. Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Dutton BYR, 2016.

As the captain of her cheerleading squad, Hermione has just one goal for the team: break the school's tradition where one person dies in a car accident and one person gets pregnant every year. When she is raped during summer cheerleading camp, however, her priorities must change.

This book tackles the tough question: "Is it always necessary for rape survivors to struggle and suffer and have lots of difficulties coming to terms with life after trauma?" Many books featuring characters who survive an attack focus on that survivor's struggle and eventual healing. This is not that book. Hermione is a strong person and is focused on cheerleading and her friends and her life. After she is raped, she is still a strong person who is focused on cheerleading and her friends and her life. She does not retreat into herself. She does not hide from hard truths. She does not experience multiple panic attacks or flashbacks, and when she does have them, she has a good support system in place to help her out.

I wish I could say this was a typical survivor experience, but I think each situation is unique and that Hermione is blessed in having parents and friends who can support her in the aftermath of the attack. This is not a "the girl is faking strong and will have a break down at the end of the book and ask for more help" story. Hermione has a good life, and even when something completely horrible happens to her, her life is still pretty good.

What I liked: Hermione is a very strong person and she has strong friends. She speaks her mind and gets things done and her friends stand up for her. Her "boyfriend" at the beginning of the book is kind of a jerk, but that's the extent of his plot. Hermione chooses to have an abortion after her rape, and everyone - including the local religious leader - is okay with this decision. She has a best friend who comes out as lesbian, and everyone - again - is okay with this. Hermione's name is an obvious HP reference, and the "I love you" "I know" bit is from Star Wars, which warmed my geeky little heart.

What I didn't like: Hermione's world is almost too perfect, so while I love this story, I don't think it rings true for many rape survivors. It is typical not to be believed in light of disclosing a rape. It is typical to have people question what you were wearing or what you did or whether you deserved it. It is typical to struggle with things like doctor's appointments, the possibility of abortion, flashbacks, panic attacks, etc. Hermione gets to skip all of those things, and while that makes for a nice story, it doesn't provide hope to those who struggle with surviving. But there are other books that fit that bill, and this one does a good job at what it aims to do - tell a story of a calm survival.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Hermione is roofied and raped at camp; she later has an abortion; she has occasional flashbacks and panic attacks which fellow survivors may find triggering
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Speak, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, All the Rage, Girls Like Us

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