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Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Cover of Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author E.K. Johnston comes a brave and unforgettable story that will inspire readers to rethink how we treat survivors. Hermione Winters is captain of her...
From #1 New York Times bestselling author E.K. Johnston comes a brave and unforgettable story that will inspire readers to rethink how we treat survivors. Hermione Winters is captain of her...
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  • From #1 New York Times bestselling author E.K. Johnston comes a brave and unforgettable story that will inspire readers to rethink how we treat survivors.
    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 small 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 a 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 rape 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.
    "E.K. Johnston has a seemingly limitless range.... This is realistic fiction at it's best."—The Globe & Mail
    ★ "Johnston's clever—but never precious—update of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is unflinching but not at all graphic in its treatment of sexual violence.... Middle and high school readers will pass this powerful, engaging story around and around."Kirkus Reviews, starred review
    ★ "Fierce and gorgeously drawn, this is a rape story that doesn't focus on victimhood."Booklist, starred review

    "A beautifully written portrait of a young woman facing the unthinkable, this is a must-buy for high school collections."SLJ, starred review

    "Exit, Pursued by a Bear is an important new novel comparable with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson."—VOYA.
    "This story of a cheerleader rising up after a traumatic event will give you Veronica Mars-level feels that will stay with you long after you finish."Seventeen Magazine
    A NPR Best Book of 2016
    A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
    A Booklist Best Book of 2016
    A New York Public Library 2016 Top Ten Book for Teens
    A Chicago Public Library Best Teen Fiction of 2016
    A Globe & Mail Best Book of 2016
    A CBC Best Book of 2016
    A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2016
    A Bustle Top 30 YA Book of 2016
    A Bookish Best Book of 2016
    A Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
    A finalist for Audible's Best Young Adult Audiobook of 2016
    A 2017 Ontario Library Association White Pine Honor Book


  • From the book


    I start running after school. Usually I get enough of a workout between practice and gym class that I don't do extra, but this week I feel like I might explode if I stop moving. So I run. I run up and down the streets of Palermo, looking at the houses and coloured leaves on the trees and trying to hold on to the feeling that my body is my own and limitless. I run on the country roads, the gravel crunching under my feet—until the smell of pine makes me feel sick and I fly back to the safety of concrete sidewalks. I run and run, and when I finally fall asleep at night, I am tired enough that I don't remember my dreams.

    One night, I pass the church my father and I attend whenever we're both home on Sunday morning (so . . . about once a month, in a good month). I've passed the church every other night this week, but tonight the light in the office is on. Once upon a time, churches were always open, a sanctuary if you needed them. But the world changes, I guess. I haven't given a single thought to the church since it happened, but when I see the light on, my feet slow down of their own accord, and I am knocking on the door before I know it. My fist sounds heavy against the wood. I am already having second thoughts, but it would be rude to run away. Just when I think maybe the light was left on accidentally, the door opens, and there is the minister, dressed in normal clothes, and looking a bit confused. When he sees me, his eyes widen for a moment before he makes his face neutral.

    "Hello, Hermione," he says. I wonder if he remembers my name because he's good at his job or because I've been on the news. He doesn't ask me if I'm okay. Instead he waves me in, and shuts the door. Maybe it's because I'm in a church. Maybe it's because this is the man who baptized me. But I'm not afraid.

    "Hello, Reverend Rob," I say, and the door latch echoes in the hallway. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

    "No, no. Just practicing for Sunday. All this time, and I still get a bit of stage fright leading up to a sermon."

    I follow Rob back into his office, which is warmly lit and full of old books. He waves me into one of the seats. I have just realized what it is I want to say, what I want to ask him.

    "Would you like water or tea?" he asks. "That's all I have on hand."

    "I'm fine, thank you," I say, feeling profoundly awkward. I keep finding new ways to do that. "I don't come here very often."

    "That's okay." He's sitting comfortably in his chair. People are never comfortable around me anymore. "I know how life goes. Schedules and the Church don't always get along, so I do my best to operate an open door policy."

    "Right," I say. "I have two favours to ask. One's a bit presumptuous. The other is . . . also presumptuous."

    "Please. Feel free to ask."

    "Thank you." I pause for a moment to gather my thoughts. I think of the looks I've been getting at the grocery store, and take a deep breath. "Please don't ask people to pray for me."


  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 15, 2016
    Johnston (A Thousand Nights) draws from Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," and perhaps as much from too-common present-day headlines, in the fearless story of a 17-year-old Ontario cheerleader getting a sense of her new normal after being drugged and raped at cheer camp. While Hermione's lack of specific memories of the assault offer a kind of protection, triggers surface (the smell of pine, the bass line of a song), and there's the awful reality that any of the six male members of her own team could have been involved. Hermione's relationship with her boyfriend collapses, and a pregnancy test comes back positive, but friends like her co-captain, Molly, are beyond steadfast—Johnston makes it abundantly clear what assets Hermione has in her own physical and mental discipline, as well as in the bedrock unity of her team. While Hermione is a victim, Johnson never portrays her as victimized, instead focusing on how Hermione reasserts control over her life with help from family, friends, and therapy, using her own decisions to push back against something in which she had no such choice. Ages 14–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 15, 2015
    A driven cheerleader confronts life and relationships following her sexual assault. When Hermione Winters arrives at Camp Manitouwabing for the final pre-season cheer camp of her high school career, she's prepared for intense competition and exhausting practices. Working with her fierce best friend Polly as co-captain, Hermione anticipates athletic challenges and triumphs--not being drugged and raped at a camp dance. Because her rapist leaves her propped up on a rock in the camp's lake, there's little DNA evidence to be recovered, and Hermione has no memory of what happened to her. When a pregnancy test two weeks later yields a positive result, Hermione knows she has a second chance at justice. Johnston's clever--but never precious--update of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is unflinching but not at all graphic in its treatment of sexual violence and abortion and likewise honestly confronts the wider repercussions of rape culture and victim-blaming, particularly in small towns. Hermione's is one type of sexual-assault and trauma-survival story: she enjoys all the advantages of being popular and middle-class, and she gets the help she needs so she can continue to enjoy that life. This doesn't make Hermione's journey easy; her victories are earned. An author's note follows, explaining that Hermione's experience is a best-case scenario, providing links for both U.S. and Canadian resources, and offering encouragement to readers not so lucky as Hermione. Middle and high school readers will pass this powerful, engaging story around and around. Adults should be ready to join in the discussion that follows. (Fiction. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2016

    Gr 9 Up-Palermo Heights is known for two things. One, its phenomenal cheerleading team, and two, a supposed streak every year that sees one student die and one student get pregnant. As team captain, Hermione Winters is determined to see that tradition broken. Yet after a sexual assault takes place at camp, she is forced to reconcile her goals with her new reality and decide what course her life will take. Competitive cheerleading provides a unique and compelling backdrop to this take on Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. There are no caricatures, only well-drawn, strong female protagonists and caring but believably flawed adults. The repercussions that the incident have on her relationships are realistic but occasionally seem to provide a best-case scenario to how people interact with victims of rape. Most notably, the friendship between the main character and her fierce best friend is a constant source of strength and humor. Hermione's story traces her reactions to a sexual assault in a nuanced fashion that confronts the horror but doesn't dwell in its shadow. Throughout the book, the setting in a tiny Canadian town and the protagonist's hyper focus and dedication to her sport lend realism to the text. VERDICT A beautifully written portrait of a young woman facing the unthinkable, this is a must-buy for high school collections.-Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter's Prep, Jersey City, NJ

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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