Saturday, November 26, 2016

EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR BY E.K. JOHNSTON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston.


Hmmm... this book.

Alright, I guess I'll start with an overview first and then get into my thoughts.

This is the story of Hermione Winters, a popular, but also friendly cheerleader. The cheer team goes to a summer camp retreat to scope out the competition, have some fun, and build team spirit for the coming year. Except it's not all fun and games, one night at a party, Hermione's drink is drugged, she is raped and left in the lake until she is found unconscious the next day. Yup.

The story continues on with the aftermath, nobody knows who did it; she remembers nothing. As she awaits the results of her pregnancy test, Hermione goes back to school, meeting stares, whispers and little support from her boyfriend, who thinks she had it coming, she was flirting with *all* the guys at the camp.

Many parts of this story were very raw and in your face. Hermione's best friend Polly is unapologetically honest and is Hermione's rock throughout the whole thing.

I did, however, have some problems with this book. I have never been in Hermione's shoes, and hopefully never will be, but something just felt off about how she was reacting. And she brings that up in the book, in conversations with a therapist, they both see that she is reacting as if this happened to a best friend, not herself. In that situation, I know there are a million ways to react, and no right or (necessarily) wrong reactions, but something about how she was handling it rubbed me weird.

I think the whole story itself was just so atypical of the tradition sexual assault books I've read, that it just seem, I don't want to say romanticized, because it definitely isn't, but it just seems like it's a part of Hermione's life and she's pretty much moved on. Maybe it's because she doesn't remember anything. Maybe it's because she has an amazing support system; in the authors note, it is mentioned that this was important to the author, that the parents are supportive, of having a good experience with police, of having a best friend willing to do anything for you, because so many cases like this don't have those supports in place.

I would argue that it becomes less real, and more of a story because of these people. You might get the cop who blames you, or doesn't really care; you might get the best friend who thinks you brought it on yourself. Of course none of these are true, and I suppose that is what the story is getting at. No two cases are ever the same, and no amount of blame can or should be placed on the victim.

I think by blacking out the rape itself, the author is saving both the narrator and the reader from living that experience, but I think in that, the story loses some of it's rawness. That may also be because I am basically comparing all books about sexual assault to the likes of The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, a book so raw and gritty I cannot stop thinking about it MONTHS after finishing it.

I did like this book, it talks about an issue that is never really talked about, and if it is, it is examined on a very surface level and swept under the rug. This book in and of itself sheds light on the issue of sexual assault and how it is treated. Hermione is strong and she fights back. She definitely has moments where she falls apart, but she picks herself back up again.

I don't really know what else to say. I'd been putting off this review because I had to collect my thoughts, but I think I will leave you with this. For better or for worse, this is not you "typical" story about a rape. Some people will appreciate the different perspective it gives, others will wish there was a bit more depth. I think I am in the latter camp.