Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
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Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Harper Teen
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died. So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him. As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out. At any cost. Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.
Well. There simply aren’t enough stars to express my thoughts on this book. Seriously, if I weren’t so lazy, I would probably go ahead and create a sixth star. I have all the feels just thinking about this book. I am going to be honest, up until about a month ago, I had zero intentions on ever reading it. Military? Pass. But the reviews started rolling in, and the hype started building, and I was curious. People really liked it, so I figured I should have a go at it, see what the fuss was about. And the hype was spot-on. In fact, there should be more hype. All the hype. I actually had to create a special shelf on Goodreads for this book (and The Hunger Games) because I felt that labeling it as a “favorite” wasn’t quite good enough.
Where do I even begin? Okay, first, you need to know that I know nothing about the military. I don’t understand its rules or hierarchy, or culture in general. I have one friend in the military, but I zone out when he starts talking Army.
Anyway, the reason I tell you that is because it didn’t matter. The way Joy N. Hensley writes, you feel like you could be tossed into the Denmark Military Academy at any minute, and you’d totally understand. There isn’t info dumping, or excessive descriptions, just the absolute perfect balance of terminology and explanation.
This is one of those all-encompassing, book hangover inducing, “crap, I am now stuck in this world for months” books. Plainly put, it sucked me in. I couldn’t stop reading. It wasn’t even just a typical page-turner for me; it was more that I felt so enmeshed in the book that it felt like my temporary reality. I felt every imaginable emotion so strongly during this book. When Sam was being treated unfairly, I was so incredibly angry, I felt like punching someone. When Sam felt broken, I felt broken. The connection I had with her was remarkable.
The characters were amazing as well. Sam was just a true heroine. Yes, she was a strong girl from the beginning of the book, but the transformation she made during the year was just lovely. She is tough, but still so very human. She is absolutely one of my favorite female characters of all time.
The supporting characters were also extremely well fleshed out. Let’s just take a minute and swoon over Drill Sergeant Stamm. He was just amazing, in every way. There are some fellow recruits who stand up for her and protect her, but they are the minority. Not only do some of the other Academy members not want females in their school (or the military in general, from the sound of it), but a generations-old society isn’t accepting the girls either. The “good old boys” will stop at seemingly nothing to get Sam and the other females out of the DMA as soon as possible, and sadly, I don’t think this is terribly exaggerated. It is infuriating and heartbreaking to read, but cheering Sam and her small band of allies along is a treat. Of course, with a secret society behind the push to remove her, it is hard for Sam (and the reader!) to decipher who is trustworthy.
This book made me cry, yell, laugh, swoon, and cry some more, and it was absolutely stunning. The gut-wrenching twists and turns and the exquisitely real characterizations made for a book that captivated me and one I am sure I will never forget.
How exactly am I supposed to move on from my epic book hangover, exactly? I want more!
|If you didn’t get the memo, I love love love this book!
What is the last book that you read and LOVED?
Do any of you have military experience? If so, a million thank yous for your bravery and selflessness 🙂