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

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Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a novel about the strength of friendship in the face of something terrible. Hermione Winters is the popular girl at a school where the biggest sport is cheerleading. Every summer, Hermione, her friend Polly, and her squad go to a camp to showcase and perfect their skills. When something is put into her drink at a party, Hermione can’t remember what happens. When she wakes up in the hospital, her life has changed. Suddenly, she becomes the girl that people whisper about in the hallway, unsure of how to talk to that raped girl. One thing hasn’t changed, however. Polly is still her best friend and in the months to come, Hermione will need her more than ever.

This book deals with some very big things and did them in a way that was very conscious of how people feel and are treated in the aftermath of rape. Exit, Pursued by a Bear didn’t focus on how Hermione fell apart. She could have. And the book could have been about that. Instead this was a book about how Hermione didn’t let labels define her. She continued going to school. She talked to a therapist. She dealt with the worry that she didn’t know who her rapist was and the possibility that she never would. Hermione was strong. Her strength came from within her, but it also came from the supporting people around her, particularly her best friend, Polly.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear was very focused. It touched on all of the different things that can happen in the aftermath of a rape and didn’t trivialize any of them. It addressed them head-on by how the characters, particularly Hermione and Polly, dealt with them. There was a focus on some bad things, like how people sometimes blame the victim for what has happened to them, often under the guise of caring or giving suggestions. Hermione and Polly made it a point to show how wrong that was. Yes, Hermione was a victim. But that is not who she is and I liked that that was defined by the author.

The supporting characters for Exit, Pursued by a Bear were written really well. I felt like I had a very clear grasp on Hermione’s parents, the other members of her squad, friends from camp, and especially Polly. I was able to enjoy this book very much because of their characterization. The relationship between Polly and Hermione was so strong. It reminded me a lot of the unequivocal love that my best friend and I feel for one another. Polly was the best support that Hermione had. The several times I teared up was often because of their interactions. Best friends feel the other’s pain and accomplishments. Polly did everything she needed to do as a best friend, but that meant that it put strain on her own life. I liked that we saw that.

I liked Exit, Pursued by a Bear  a lot and was really excited to read it. Ultimately, I’m giving Exit, Pursued by a Bear 3 stars. I thought the subject matter of the novel was done really well. I’m rating it a bit lower because as much as I expected to love this book, I only liked it. The writing was good, but it didn’t resonate with me as much as I had been led to believe.  I’m not sure I would read it again because I don’t think it would have the same emotional impact on me the second time around, but I do really recommend that people read this. It’s a good story about the strength you can find inside of yourself when things happen to you because someone has taken the control from you. It’s a great story about two girls who have a strong, supportive, and loving friendship.

3 stars.

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