Monday, May 29, 2017

Rites of Passage

Now here's a book that infuriated me on levels completely separate than those I detailed in yesterday's review of How to Love. I mean, whoa, I have rarely felt such rage while reading a book that I actually have to walk away from it for a while to cool down. But we'll get to that. My family is a military one. Cousins, grandparents, aunts, my dad, all have served in some branch of the armed services. My general lack of physical prowess and the presence of exercise-induced asthma closed that door for me before it ever really opened. I'm much more of a starry-eyed bookworm. I would last ten minutes in boot camp before running home and curling up in a soft blanket with hot chocolate. So while I couldn't empathize with Sam on that level, oh boy did I end up empathizing with her.

Retrieved from Goodreads
Sam McKenna is an army brat and has never been able to turn down a bet. And it was a bet that led her to become part of the first class of female recruits at Denmark Military Academy. She knows it's going to be hard, that her fellow recruits won't like the idea of a female being at the academy. But what she didn't expect was a concentrated effort to make her and every other female recruit quit. She needs to uncover the conspiracy before she's forced out of the DMA. Or worse.

It's a pretty simple premise. Girl in new environment struggles to survive. But oh my word does it work. From day one, Sam is subject to horrific hazing ranging from subtle to outright torture. And she takes it and takes it, never breaking where people can see her. There is such a rich understanding of military dynamics, and so many different angles that are deployed in Hensley's book. Family, grief, friendship, loss, camaraderie. And over everything there is a sense of tension, of fear. Very few contemporary YA novels have had my heart racing at the climax. But this book had me so tense I had to take shallow breaths. And the rage, oh the rage I felt reading every single sexist, discriminatory thing that Sam had to endure. She couldn't slip even once without ten people pointing at it as a reason she didn't deserve to be at the academy. She couldn't do too well without it making her a target. She could not win, and she could never show weakness. It was horrific and I felt it all. There were only a few minor things about this book that made me knock it down a star. I did not like how the romance portion of the book wrapped up, although the book was never about the romance. It still bugged me how it was basically a throw-away paragraph. And I wanted to get a bit more inside Sam's head. I wanted to know more things about her that went beyond the DMA. She never mentioned friends, or many experiences of being an army brat. And I wanted that element to flesh her out even more. Overall, I loved this book, and I'm sad to see Hensley hasn't had anything else publish since its release.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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