Exit, Pursued by Bear by E. K. Johnston is billed as "Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare," and while I didn't quite get that comparison, as a Marshmallow and a member of The Bard's fan club, I was intrigued. And, full disclosure *I was provided an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
Here's the synopsis:
Doesn't that just grab you? The title is a reference to Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, that is often used as a theatrical term for keeping the hero's hands clean of blood but still killing the bad guy. This doesn't super come into play in this book, but there is certainly a hero, and her name is Hermione, and a villain, her rapist. Hermione is a phenomenal main character, she's funny, and she's real. She doesn't get to crumble like so many girls in the shows and books about victims of sexual assault, she forces herself to continue, while seeking real help (from therapy), and real support (from her friends, cheer squad, and her parents).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, I wish this book had been longer. Percentage-wise, the rape happened entirely too late for something that was revealed in the synopsis. Hermione's friends were also fantastic. I really enjoyed every single thing about her best friend and her parents. There were some very emotional parts in this book, that really moved me, and we really important to understanding the victim's mindset. The parents in this book were stellar, and the author does touch on some of the things that could have been much worse if Hermione weren't so lucky.
I loved the fact that Hermione got help from a therapist. I think it's important to show that it is a normal progression when events like this take place, and nothing to be ashamed of. I especially liked that Hermione didn't always see eye to eye with her therapist, because this is another truth. I appreciated that Hermione struggled, and maintained her humor, not letting her rape define her.
But there were also points in the book that I didn't like--like that Hermione was occasionally pretty condescending, or the fact that the ending felt rushed and thrown together. I absolutely adored this author's 2015 release, A Thousand Nights, but it suffered from this same issue.
Overall, I gave this book a 4/5 STARS on Goodreads. It was really well-written, and written in a way to show a strong character and her coping mechanisms in a true to life way. I loved the humor and the description, and the side characters were well thought out and deep. However, the plot itself felt a little too shallow, and could have added another hundred pages.