Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (InfoSoup)
Hermione is headed into her senior year as the co-captain of her school’s cheerleading team. At her school, cheering is more important and more prestigious than the sports themselves. She’s dating one of the boys on the squad and they are all at summer cheerleading camp getting ready for the competitions coming up, knowing that they are probably heading for nationals again. The safety of Hermione’s world is shattered when she is drugged at the camp’s dance party and then raped near the lake. She is found unconscious on the lake shore, half in the water. Hermione must now face being the victim rather than the queen bee, a label that does not sit well for her. She must also wait for a pregnancy test and the decisions that that will bring with it. Hermione fights not to be defined by what has happened to her and to find her footing again so that she can still fly.
Johnston, author of The Story of Owen, once again sets a teen novel firmly in Canada, though this time not in a fictional Canada at all. Instead this book is richly real, a book for teens about a rape where it does not consume the victim or define her life. It’s a book where Hermione’s family and friends come forward to support her, never to question her own role in the attack, never to push her feelings and emotions aside, but to support her completely. A mention must be made of Polly, Hermione’s best friend who is a zingy mix of support and healthy attitude, exactly the friend you want at your side. This novel is a guidebook to how we should be treating assault survivors, not as victims but as survivors who should have our support not our pity.
Johnston takes it one step further and also has Hermione get an abortion. It was at this point in the novel that I found myself entirely overcome. Johnston writes about a Canadian abortion system, one that Americans will have problems relating to due to its ease. Still, there are emotions here, ones that are not questioning Hermione’s decision or situation at all. The emotions are large because here is another sisterhood that Hermione is a part of. It’s not dramatic for any effect or statement, it’s dramatic simply because it is. Because it’s necessary. Because it’s a choice being made. And that is so beautiful and moving.
Immensely powerful and empowering, this novel has so much to say to teens in our world. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from library book.