There’s no wrong way to process trauma. We might not agree with the way someone does it, but we cannot dictate the way they process. I won’t even say choose to process. It’s not always a choice. Sometimes, the way we react to things is very different from what we say we would do in a hypothetical situation. E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear tells of the story of Hermione’s trauma and her subsequent actions.
This book is sold as a retelling of The Winter’s Tale, but with the exception of some names and the name. the two have little in common. Admittedly, it’s been years since I read the play, so maybe there’s more there that I would recognize with a real comparison piece, but that’s not what’s happening here. Here I’m talking about this book. Now, I shamefully have to admit that I had no idea what the title meant. Stage directions have never really been my thing. So I did some research before I read the book. The title totally fits, and hints at how the story is going to wrap up. The tagline on Goodreads claims this book is Veronica Mars meets Shakespeare. As a huge VM fan, I can say with certainty that I have zero, and I mean zero, idea how this compares to Veronica Mars at all. There is no mystery, no investigation, no challenging authority or channeling of that fighting, persnickety spirit. The only thing these characters have in common is that they’re blond.
Hermione (the character notes that this could be a reference to the play or Harry Potter) is a cheerleader. Her team – The Golden Bears. She’s a hell of a cheerleader. She’s the captain. She’s an athlete. She’s elite. They’re all athletes. Cheerleading is hard. But it’s really great. Really, really great. And you get to wear tons of ribbons in your hair! For real guys! Before we get into what I liked about the book, let’s talk about the minor issues that keep this book from being fabulous. First – I don’t love the writing. It’s not terrible by any means. It’s just slightly on the positive side of okay. If not for the subject matter, it might have been a bigger problem. Second – this is a cheerleading story that happens to involve a rape. Not a story about rape trauma and recover that involves a cheerleader. The focus of the book is on the cheerleading. Maybe that was the intention, but it takes away from the importance of the story underneath. It makes it almost tentative in its message. Continue reading