April 22, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

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Exit, Pursued by a Bear, named after Shakespeare's most famous stage direction, from A Winter's Tale is set not in 17th Century Sicily, but in small-town Canada in the cheerleading subculture.

Hermione is a serious cheerleader entering her last year of high school, when she is drugged and raped at cheerleading camp. She doesn't know who did it, but what ensues is less of a mystery and more of an internal battle for healing and a celebration of strong female friendship.

While some readers think that E.K. Johnston sanitized sexual assault by making Hermione's support system so strong and depicting her assault as little as possible, I think that Johnston gets her message across without traumatizing the reader as much as she could, while also advocating feminism and positive female relationships.
Surely there are girls who have experiences similar to Hermione's and why not tell that story, too and not just the worst-case scenarios.

The scene with the newspaper reporter toward the story's end addresses the issue of slut shaming and the burden placed on girls to prevent attacks against them. Hermione's bestie Polly rants in response to the reporter, "You're okay with asking that girl what mistake she made, and you wouldn't think to ask a boy how he would avoid raping someone?"

I don't want to give too much away about the content, but page 138 of this book is one of the most feminist things I've ever read in teen fiction.

Like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Courtney Summers' All the Rage and Aaron Hartzler's new What We Saw, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is an important book about sexual assault, about being broken and healed.

Posted by kathryn at April 22, 2016 04:43 PM
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