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.
Title: Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Author: EK Johnston
Publication date: March 15, 2016
There’s a review on Goodreads (beware: spoilers) that says Exit, Pursued by a Bear is “devoid of the emotional depth it needed to succeed,” and that describes exactly how I feel about it. Maybe that’s the point — after all, Hermione doesn’t remember her rape so she doesn’t feel a strong emotional connection to it — but it doesn’t make for a great book. Fortunately, Exit, Pursued by a Bear didn’t take me long to read. It wasn’t a gripping can’t-put-it-down story, but I moved through it quickly and finished it within a day. That’s about all the time I would have wanted to devote to it.
I had trouble relating to Hermione, the main character. She’s not all that interesting. There’s not much to her other than cheerleading and then her status as a rape victim. Obviously, the rape is going to overshadow everything going on in her life, but what was there to her character before the rape? She was a cheerleader. That’s pretty much it. She’s just not a very well-rounded person or a well-developed character.
I did like all the cheerleading parts to the story and Hermione’s fabulous support system. With a couple of exceptions (there’s always someone…) her friends and teammates rally around her (Polly is the best friend ever), her parents are supportive if apprehensive about how to treat her, and every adult automatically believes her to the point that it’s a little unrealistic.
I had a major issue with the way everyone she encountered reacted to her. Other students in her school, sure, I can see it being new to them and we all know how high school students are, but it seemed like none of the adults had ever met a sexual assault victim either. Not one of them? I’ll excuse her parents because obviously she’s their little girl, but what’s with the others? I know it’s a small town and all, but in a school with an annual death and an annual pregnancy, it’s difficult to believe this has NEVER happened in any of their lives in any way before. Besides, many of these adults had left town, attended college, and returned home, so it’s not like they were locked in a protective small-town bubble their entire lives.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear isn’t a bad book. I just couldn’t connect to it, despite liking good chunks of the book, like her friendships with the other female cheerleaders. At the end of the book their final year of high school is drawing to a close and they’re all making plans for their future. I was sad to think of them splitting up. I actually looked up all the locations to see where each girl would be going to college. This book is set in Canada and I’m American so I was unfamiliar with most of the cities. I wanted to see how far apart they would be, knowing that it doesn’t really matter because like most people do after high school, they’ll probably drift apart. Still, I’d like to think that she and Polly will always be best friends.