Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Genres: young adult, contemporary
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Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
First things first: This book’s comparison to Veronica Mars is bullshit. I’m glad I didn’t see that before I read it because I would have read it just for that and been disappointed. The only similarity is that Veronica was raped, and Hermione is also raped. But this is the tale of a girl that was on top of everything. All her choices were taken away from her one evening at cheer camp, and what follows is incredibly so realistic. It is not so easy to catch a predator, and most rapists don’t get arrested. We all know that. We know how tough it is to get the evidence to work for you. The system is broken.
It’s also the story of Hermione’s survival and recovery. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s not an easy one and she is a tough girl. She handles it better than most, but it’s still very difficult reading about the aftermath of a horrific rape. Luckily most of her friends stick by her and she has support to get through it. Most girls don’t, and this book, while it was effective, made me feel maybe that Hermione healed too easily. It felt realistic and not realistic. I think both stories should be told, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. Or really how I SHOULD feel.
While I enjoyed Exit, Pursued by a Bear, the book didn’t resonate with me or connect with me like I had hoped it would. It’s a relatively fast read, and it’s dark enough, but I felt detached from the plot, almost like an outsider. The book does a lot of telling, and I think that might be the problem. I didn’t feel like I was right there with Hermione, and I wanted to be. It’s completely different than how I felt after reading All the Rage. That book created a storm of anger and emotions. This one left me feeling sad, but more meh than anything. I know both books are very different, but this one felt completely different, and I’m not sure it was in a good way.
I loved that cheerleading was portrayed in a positive light, though. The mean girl is always cheerleader, and in this book, the cheerleaders were all pretty great people. The coach was a great role model, and the girls and guys were portrayed like any other teens. This was a co-ed cheerleading squad, and those are very hard to find in high school, but I went with it. And it mostly worked for me. I loved the characters, but other than Hermione and Polly, I think they could have been developed better. I know we are meant to focus on Hermione’s story and her recovery, but the side characters mostly felt like faces with names. Also, I just really, really wanted more cheerleading. The book would have been more effective if we actually learned something about the sport–the jumps, the formations, what things are called and the process. It would have helped to build atmosphere, I think. (And maybe I feel this way because I did a little cheerleading in high school.) That’s what I mean when I say “too much telling.” It just all came off very surface to me.
In a nutshell: I’m not sure how I feel. I liked it, and yet it left me feeling a bit cold. It’s not like I wanted to be destroyed over this book, but I do feel like I should have felt something. I liked Hermione and Polly, and Hermione’s therapist. The book covers some much-needed-in-ya topics, and that I appreicate. It’s an important book for teen girls, and though it didn’t completely work for me, it was effective at what it set out to do.