It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.
Last Week’s Books:
I can say that I did not like the second installment of Batgirl (of Burnside) as much as the first. Volume two is called “Family Business,” and features stories where the Batman persona is “played” by Commissioner Gordon; Dick Grayson, Barbara’s former and presumed-dead boyfriend, shows up, and Batgirl even teams up with Batwoman. For me, figuring out all these relationships seemed to get in the way of fighting the bad guys. Still, I enjoy this Batgirl and plan to keep on reading.
E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear was a must-purchase when I saw it at Barnes and Noble. Johnston is a new-ish author whose excellent work I love to support. I purposefully did not read reviews of this book, and so went into it pretty blind. I think it is only fair, then, to say that there are major spoilers in this review.
Hermione Winters is a confident, motivated almost-senior who is co-captain of an elite cheerleading team. At the annual back-to-school cheer camp, she sets her sights on not only leading the best team at the camp, but creating a team that will once again be crowned champs at the end-of-year competition. And then at the camp dance someone drugs her drink, leads her away to the beach, and rapes her. Hermione’s friends find her down by the water, and when she wakes up as she enters the ambulance Hermione has no recollection of her attack or attacker. DNA tests do not reveal the identity of her rapist. Hermione returns home and misses the first week of school as she physically recovers and waits to take a pregnancy test that is necessary even though she was given emergency contraception. While she is absent, rumors fly about a box of condoms in her suitcase (put there by her fellow cheer team member and boyfriend, Leo) and her “flirting” with other guys at the camp. When her pregnancy test is positive, Hermione decides to get an abortion and further (inconclusive) tests are done on the fetus. Then Hermione does her best to get therapy, to return to her life as cheerleader captain, and to look ahead to the big competition and college.
Hermione is surrounded by very supportive parents; a ferocious best friend, Polly; an excellent therapist; and an understanding minister. This team helps her weather the storm of rumors, helps her avoid triggers as much as possible and deal with panic attacks when they happen, and tries to assist her in remembering the events of her rape so that she might identify her attacker. Obviously, not all raped teens have this kind of support, but even with it, Hermione must work hard to overcome her fears and deal with what happened to her. Her personal strength is admirable and important for teen girls to read about.
I am at a middle school with students in grades 6-8. I think it is important to offer this book to my readers, just as it is important to have Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak on my shelves. I will put a “T for Teen” sticker on the book, but I will not restrict checkout. A few reasons that I feel I can select the book for junior high students is that Hermione does not remember the details of her rape and that Hermione’s pregnancy and abortion are handled so well. I think that a more graphically detailed book would be better suited for high school readers, but the issue of rape is one that we need to educate younger girls about, too, so I am glad this book exists.
Finally, I want to add that I am not impressed by this book only because it is an “issue book.” Hermione is a strong character, her friendship with Polly is especially well developed, and the story unfolds in an engaging manner. Readers will not only connect with Hermione as a rape survivor, but will also connect to Hermione as a talented and determined athlete. As Hermione does not want to be known as just “that raped girl,” so, too, Exit, Pursued by a Bear should not be known as just “that raped girl book.”
Currently Reading/Listening To: