At a party celebrating the end of cheerleading camp, Hermione Winters – likable, great student, loyal friend, and captain of her school’s cheer squad – is drugged and raped. Remembering nothing of the attack, she soon finds out she is pregnant. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of Hermione’s refusal to let these events define her.
Taking a break from fantasy-driven novels (including the dragon-filled The Story of Owen and the Scheherazade-inspired A Thousand Nights), author E.K. Johnston here tackles a very realistic scenario, and does it well. Her wry humour, full-fledged character development, and insight into family and friendship dynamics are nothing short of remarkable. The reader is kept engaged, and – like Hermione – hopeful, even in the darkest moments.
Hermione’s horrifying situation brings out the best in those around her. Friends and family provide her with a support system, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Johnston handles the relationship between Hermione and her best friend, Polly, particularly well, illuminating the positive power of friendships between adolescent girls, a demographic so often portrayed as catty or shallow.
Through the lens of Hermione’s interactions with those close to her, as well as the general public, we see how crucial it is for sexual assault victims to own their experiences and move forward on their terms, regardless of what society expects of them. Though some memory of the attack eventually returns, Hermione goes on to thrive and live the life she chooses. Exit is a story of triumph, not just survival.