Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
“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.
This book honestly blew me away. I’ve never read anything by the author before, but the plot immediately sounded intriguing to me. I’m a fan of books that discuss rape culture because it’s such an unfortunately relevant thing in our world today. That being said, I’ve been anticipating the release of this for months and months now. It did not disappoint me in the slightest, it ended up being an incredible read about friendship, sexual assault, cheerleading, getting ready for college, and growing up.
Our protagonist is Hermione, senior (they say it differently in Canada but still means the same) and captain of her cheerleading team. She’s one of the most popular girls in school, but at this point she cares more about graduating and going to college. Though I’m going to talk about what happened to her later, for now I want to focus on who she is. She’s a strong and smart girl who is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She’s also a great leader and her teammates respect her. Hermione doesn’t let what people say about her stop her from going on with her life. It’s pretty difficult not to like this girl.
Usually, I talk about the love interest here. There’s kind of one here, but the point of the book isn’t the romance so I’m not going to talk about him. Instead, I want to talk about Polly, Hermione’s best friend. She’s easily my favorite character. This is exactly the type of friend that everyone needs. She’s beyond loyal to her best friend. She knows how to be there for her without pushing her too far. At times, she’s just physically there for Hermione and no words need to be said. I was also happy that Polly ended up getting her happily ever after with her girlfriend.
What happened to Hermione was that she was date raped while away at cheerleading camp. It’s obviously a very painful and horrifying incident. I’ve only read one other YA book that features date rape. That book was What Happens Next, one of my favorites, but the MC still has some interaction with her rapist. In this, she has no idea who he is, and the story doesn’t revolve around figuring out who it was. It’s more about the aftermath, learning how to move on with your life. I always feel weird rating a book about rape since it’s never happened to me, and it is such a personal thing. That being said, I still feel like this story was the perfect balance of informative and sensitive when approaching this topic.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear was a fabulous read for me. This was rather short, it went by really quickly. You could easily finish it in only one sitting. It has a wonderful message about friendship and also being able to move on. Polly and Hermione have a beautiful and unbreakable friendship that you can’t help but long to have as well. Clearly, Hermione is just trying to move on with her life. She can’t remember what happened to her, but she still has to find a way to get through the aftermath of it all. If you’re looking for a well written YA book that handles a dark topic in a lovely way, you need to read this one.