After I finished The Last September, I found myself in a bit of a readers debacle. I had new books on the way, my Book of the Month shipment was due any day, but it hasn’t arrived yet. I was very excited to start one of those books immediately (yes, my one book of the month wasn’t enough, I added on two more) but I can’t leave a gap of time between books, it causes me too much anxiety. I had Exit, Pursued By A Bear in my drawer and decided to read that in the interim but I was weary from the start. I was unhappy with The Way I Used To Be, which deals with the same subject matter so I was waiting awhile before revisiting a YA rape centered novel. So that’s my sort of disclaimer to this review.
The main character of this novel is Hermonie who is a high school cheerleader. She is the senior captain of her team and she takes cheerleading very seriously. At cheerleading camp, Hermonie is drugged and raped. The bulk of the novel is Hermonie dealing with the aftermath of her rape.
I really liked that this novel took a very different approach to the YA rape story. Hermonie doesn’t remember her rape. She doesn’t replay it in her head, she had no memory of it. She also doesn’t struggle with telling anyone, she is found unconscious and given a rape kit so everyone knows. She doesn’t spiral into depression or let the act overtake her. She has an abortion which is not a huge plot point, she doesn’t struggle with this decision and it doesn’t haunt her after the fact.
I commend Johnston for resisting the urge to make this story follow the “rape story formula”. But it also voids the story from a lot of natural conflict. The biggest conflict is the perception of other kids at school. Some real winners think she deserved it, or wanted it. This isn’t an overwhelming belief and her friends quickly come to her rescue.
Hermonie also felt like a one dimensional character. She only cares about cheerleading to the point that she didn’t seem like a high schooler, she seems older. It’s great that she handles it so well but if the plot isn’t her coming to grips with the rape, then what is the plot?
That’s my thoughts!