Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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

I will be honest - I read this book because of the cover. I was intrigued by it from the first time I saw it. Realistic fictional YA novels, especially those narrated in the first person, are not high on my preferred reading list. But this is one of the best I've read lately.

I liked the book. It had a strong main character and good narrative flow. I think this could be a fine reading choice for any young woman feeling judged. There were many good secondary characters who helped Hermione through her trauma.  When Hermione tells her minister that she is scheduled for an abortion, for example, he says, “If someone starts throwing around stupid words like ‘It’s a gift,’ or ‘It’s in God’s plan,’ you come right here, and I’ll find you ten ways in which it isn’t.” (p. 129) 

The cover photo turned out to be a perfect choice for the book as well. It's an excellent representation of the story inside. The cheerleader on the cover is both at the top of her game and extremely vulnerable, partly in sunlight and partly in shadow.

The publisher description is misleading, I think. The thing I would emphasize most when describing this book is not the relationship between Hermione and Polly but how Hermione stays strong, grows into adulthood, and capably handles her traumatic experience.

A “reveal” about three fifths of the way in was hinted at from the first chapter and didn't come as a surprise, nor did I think it really added to the story. It's not enough to write an issue book these days, you must write an issues book. 

I originally thought it was too soon to have a teen heroine named Hermione, but that didn't end up bothering me at all. One thing I didn't feel was the connection to Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, aside from the character names. It’s cute that the team name is the Golden Bears, but some of the language trying to tie this book to the plot of The Winter’s Tale is quite belabored.

That aside, I recommend this to readers of realistic young adult fiction, especially readers looking for empowering messages for young women about rape and choice.

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