Title: Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Author: E.K. Johnston
Synopsis: 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 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.
Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!
This. book. There is nothing like this out there in terms of novels that focus on rape victims receiving support. That alone makes it a unique read, as our heroine Hermione must cope with the fact that she has been raped, but chooses to never let it define her being.
I adored E.K Johnston’s previous novel A Thousand Nights, but I think Exit, Pursued by a Bear might be the stronger novel of the two for me. Hermione’s voice is so strong and constant, she is someone the reader can sympathize with, but she’s also someone who easily sympathizes with others. It’s also a book that explores rape and victim culture so differently, as Hermione has an amazing support network, she gets help, she attempts to come to terms with what has happened by reliving it when her cheer team goes to finals. Her narrative often left me thinking, particularly about why books like this don’t seem to exist.
I also loved that this novel took place in Ontario. Since it’s my home province I found it so easy to visualize a lot of the places Hermione went, the name dropping of different cities. There was so much that felt so familiar in this story, and it made for such an engaging experience. I loved Hermione’s friends, especially Polly, and I loved how being supportive of each other plays into this story. It’s just so unheard of, let alone strange to read about given that most books focus more of blame and shamming.
We need more books like Exit, Pursued by a Bear that focus on the support and healing process for victims of any kind of sexual assault. These books are so far and few between and it’s so disappointing given that these stories can often be just as compelling as the incident itself. This book is beautiful, haunting, and there’s just such a wonderful and deep rooted message about finding support in a time of crisis, and how people often struggle to work through traumatizing events. Hermione’s story is completely worth experiencing, and this novel has me excited to see just what E.K Johnston is capable of as a writer.