I typically shy away from war or militaristic stories, but the boarding school aspect of this young adult book hooked me. That particular trope is like catnip for me and the high school setting definitely made the militaristic aspects more accessible. I’m happy to say this was a great read.
Sam McKenna comes from a military family. Her father is a high-ranking member of the Army and her two older brothers excelled at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy at which Sam has decided to enroll. On a dare, she becomes a part of the first-ever group of girls to attend the DMA. Unfortunately, she runs up against both interpersonal and institutional sexism.
It’s been a month since I finished Rites of Passage in a page-turning frenzy and I still can’t stop thinking about the characters. Sam goes through so much during her first year. It’s painful to read at some points because there are plenty of students, alumni, and administrators that want her to fail. The way she reacts to the sexism, derision, and outright hostility makes it worth a read. She’s a complex character, strong in many ways, but not without a few weaknesses. It was fascinating to see her navigate the tricky relationships with her family and fellow classmates. The book does a nice job of wrapping up story lines and coming to a satisfying conclusion, but I’m holding out hope for a sequel. There’s so much material Hensley could explore in a second book. This novel is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in young adult, military, or feminist stories.