Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. That ending. I have not read such a perfect ending in such a long time. It took my brain a few minutes to process and fully receive the impact. I must have been twirling through the air in a perfect basket toss, positioning myself to be caught by my teammates. Once I stuck the landing, everything snapped into focus and I realize everything had been flipped.
Incredible, impeccable writing throughout. Thoughtful and detailed characterization. I felt like I was on a full cheer squad without mistaking the two Susans, thanks to the pacing and timing by Johnston. The subject of rape and its aftermath may be brutal, yet expertly handled by Johnston as the story unfolds.
At center stage is Hermione and Polly. Two friends who stay true through thick and thin, their senior year and both find ways to have each other's backs in more than one occurrence. Johnston delivers on all fronts, giving air to just about every conceivable aspect of rape and its aftermath, the slow unraveling of one girl's recovery journey. And yet, she leaves room to make the point that there is much more to Hermione Winters than just the facts, whether by police report, or news reporter. And she sure as hell is much more than the rumors, and the victim blaming, and the shaming. To the very last page, Johnston keeps the reader turning pages.
Cheerleading is about precision, execution, and decision. Hermione may have to lose herself to find she was never that far away. As the story comes full circle, she finds within herself the ability to face her past and pave the way for her future based on one simple decision: to use her voice and speak up, when rape robbed her of that choice before. Go ahead. Poke the bear. See how silent the bear is. Bravo. Bravely told. A must read. A powerhouse of a book.
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