This was a choice for last year’s Y.A. Book Club but it lost out to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and, having now read both, I wish Exit, Pursued By a Bear had won.
“There’s a moment when I know that I should scream. But screaming would be hard. And blackness would be easy. Black picks me.”
Hermione Winters is a popular cheerleader for the small Canadian town of Palermo, where cheerleaders are bigger sport stars than the teams they root for- like in Bring it On. Hermione, her best friend, Polly, and their fellow cheerleaders (including Hermione’s boyfriend, Leo) attend an intense cheer camp during the two weeks leading up to the school year. At an end of camp dance Hermione is drugged and raped by a fellow camper. Polly breaks the news to Hermione, because she has no memory of the incident, as she recovers in the hospital. Since her attacker tossed her into the lake, destroying DNA evidence, there is little she can do to bring her attacker to justice.
Maybe this would be easier if I acted like I am broken. Then they’ll be able to fix me. You can’t fix something that doesn’t know it’s broken.
The school year begins and Hermione has to go back to her small town, where there are no secrets, and try to move past what happened. Hermione and Polly are both incredibly well written, realistic teenage girls and the whole book feels incredibly rooted in reality. Hermione struggles at times but has a great support system; besides a brief rumor there is little victim blaming and her parents are overwhelmingly supportive of whatever it takes to heal their daughter. This will stick with the reader for a long time and I highly recommend it if you don’t have sensitivities to reading about sexual assault.
The title, and some plot points, are taken from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale and I think this retelling would translate well to the screen a la Taming of the Shrew/ Ten Things I Hate About You and Clueless/ Emma.