09 July 2018

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Series: N/A
# of Pages: 248
Publication: March 15, 2016
Source: Library Audiobook
Genre: Realistic Fiction
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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.

Trigger Warnings: Please keep in mind that this book deals with difficult topics
including rape and abortion.

Exit, Pursued By a Bear is such a powerful book for a number of reasons. It takes the experience of a young woman who has been raped and chronicles her journey into recovery and facing the judgments and opinions of others. There were several things that I really enjoyed about this novel and then there were other factors that made the book particularly unrealistic.

First off, I would like to point out that the title is based off the third act in Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale which the book is loosely based off of. The play itself has parts that focus on the strong relationship between Queen Hermione and her lady in waiting Paulina. E.K. Johnston used that relationship as the basis between the friendship of Hermione and Polly. I know that when I first saw the title I was confused and struggled with understanding how it related to the content of the book. The plot solely revolves on Hermione’s life as a cheerleader at the small school of Palermo Heights. While attending cheer camp during the summer, Hermione is drugged during a party and is raped. The rest of the plot follows her journey in coping with the fact that she has been raped and how she will decide to lead the rest of life. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the way that this book handled rape. It is something that people have refused to discuss in the past or have inevitably made the individual who has been raped into a cautionary tale. The support that Hermione receives in this book is AMAZING. The police officers, the counselors, friends, and family members treat her with respect and give her the time she needs to mentally and emotionally deal with being raped. I would like to point out that while this would be perfect and something that we would like in an ideal world, it is not reality. I do not give this opinion lightly. I, myself, am a survivor of sexual assault. My assailants were individuals that I knew, people that I trusted. I would have loved to received the same support as Hermione; however, in the world that we live in I was often accused of being at fault for what happened to me. I think that E.K. Johnston did a brilliant job at illustrating how rape/sexual assault victims should be treated. We’re not damaged goods. We need support and for people to understand that there is nothing that a woman or man can possibly do to make rape or sexual assault their fault. Unfortunately everything in this book was beyond perfect. A lot of times things worked out too perfectly.

What I did love and ultimately enjoy about this book was the relationship between Hermione and Polly. Johnston did a beautiful job in portraying such a strong female bond. Polly supported Hermione is every way. She was present after the rape took place, she went to Hermione’s doctors appointments, she helped her talk to police and counselors, and quite often stood by her side when other people tried to make Hermione a cautionary tale. This is the one aspect of this book that I found to be believable and true to real life. I have had friends who had guided me through that entire process and as a woman it always feels great to have another woman who will stand by your side and be understanding. Hermione’s and Polly’s relationship is one of the best representations of friendship that I have seen in young adult books.

Overall, I thought that the book was okay. I found the world that E.K. Johnston created to be a tad bit unrealistic, but definitely something that we should strive towards as a society. Her writing was simplistic and easy to follow. Based off this book, I would probably read some more of her works. If you’re looking for accurate representation of the after effects of sexual assault I would not recommend this book; however, if you want an idea of how society should handle rape and sexual assault then I would recommend picking up this book.


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