I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston

The stage direction Exit, pursued by bear comes from the Shakespeare play A Winter's Tale and is very apt for this book.  Hermione Winter, named after both the Harry Potter character and the daughter of Helen of Troy from Greek myth, will never be the same after two weeks at cheer camp in northern Canada.  At Camp Manitouwabing, her and her best friend Polly are the co-captains of their high school's champion cheer squad.  Their high school, Palermo Heights (home to the Fighting Golden Bears) does not have any sports teams that succeed on the field or court, but their cheerleaders fill the sports pages of the newspapers. They came in fourth at Nationals last year and their coach, Caledon thinks that this is the year they could win.

At camp, one-half of the girls on the squad are put in one cabin and the other half in another, so Polly and Hermione are separated. Hermione is put in a cabin with girls from St. Ignatius. She immediately makes friends with their captain, Amy who seems to have gotten a raw deal as she was chosen for the position by the Vice Principal, which as Polly says "makes her practically a narc".  So her teammates aren't happy about her and aren't listening to her and last year St. Igs had a big blow up they are still recovering from.

Hermione began dating Leo, one of the boys on the cheer squad back in the spring and has been keeping it casual, but Leo wants to heat things up at camp even though Hermione has told him that she takes camp seriously, especially since this is her last camp. When she opens her bag she finds a box of condoms, which she stuffs back inside, but not before fellow cheerleader, Jenny sees them.  He also gets upset and jealous of any time she spends with other guys and most especially Polly, even though it is all innocent and Polly has been her best friend since childhood.    

Despite that, the camp is going great. The two new guys, Dion and Cameron eventually get over their nervousness about dropping her and the other girls and learn the individual rhythms of each girl who flies up.   Everyone is sore but happy. Then on the last night, they hold a dance for everyone. They get dolled up and go out.  Hermione is dancing with Polly and Amy when someone passes her a drink and after drinking it she goes to put it in the recycling bin. That's when things get fuzzy. She sees someone at the door that leads outside and then she wakes up in the hospital.  She had been found on the rocks at the lake, naked.  She had been raped.  They gave her a morning after pill, but it will only work if she isn't already pregnant. She was not discovered right away. No one realized she was missing until they had gone to bed.  Then a search was sent out.

Polly is the one to tell her, because as you will find in this book, Polly is an incredible character. We could all use a Polly in our lives.  She rips the band-aid off. But more importantly, she will shred apart anyone who comes at you. She is sarcastic in a way that goes over most people's heads.  Hermione talked her into cheerleading and she stuck with it because she likes to win.  She can also dismiss adults. In a word, she has attitude in spades. She is Hermione's bulldog and she will need one in the days to come.  Hermione's parents are in Europe and it will take a while for them to get there, so the coach and Polly take care of her.

It turns out that the rape kit did not come back with any viable DNA due to the water she had been submerged in.  And Hermione still doesn't remember anything. The only female cop that could be dug up in the area, an Officer Plummer, leaves her card and tells her that if she becomes pregnant they can use that for DNA or if she remembers anything to please call.

Camp ends at the start of Labor Day weekend, with school beginning right after that.  The doctor tells her she cannot do any cheerleading for a week and Hermione's parents want her to stay home the first week of school, even though Polly tells her this is a bad idea.  Cheerleader, and a real sweetheart, Mallory, gets her homework for her and is the one to eventually tell her not to go on Facebook.  It turns out that Jenny reported about the condoms and Leo is saying how she flirted with everyone at camp. So the rumor mill is running wild. Mallory is standing up for her and explaining to everyone she comes across what roofies are and what really happened, but she says they don't listen to her like they do Polly.  Hermione tells her that people do listen to her, they just don't fear her.  But when she goes back, she doesn't just have to deal with the doubters, she also has to deal with the label of being "that girl who was raped" and have people avoid her, whisper about her, or act weird around her. 

She does indeed turn out to be pregnant and decides to have an abortion and use the fetal material to help identify the rapist through DNA.  So everyone is tested.  I won't say what happens there. But, while Hermione has no memories, she has to deal with throwing up for a while and feeling down, but in the end, she feels as though the whole thing happened to someone else. Until something triggers it and she has panic attacks.  She does seek the help of a pretty cool therapist who encourages her to keep an eye out for those people who are there for her in what capacity she needs them to be.  And there are many.  Some would say too many. But the author did that on purpose. She wanted any person who had been raped to read this and knows that they can find help in the oddest of places.  A school secretary, a pastor, a best friend's mother.  There are people out there just waiting to help you through this. You just have to look for them.

At the beginning of this book, at the camp, Hermione has to tell something bad that has happened to the school and a way to overcome it at a campfire ceremony.  She tells of how the school is cursed. Every year someone dies in a drunk driver accident and a girl gets pregnant.  She plans on breaking this curse. As you can see, this does not happen. Instead, she embodies both of those categories at once. She is the girl who got pregnant and she "died" in maybe not a drunk driving accident as he used roofies, but she died nonetheless.  In a way, rape is a murder of the person you once were and a rebuilding of the person you are to become.  Things are different. You react to things differently and people differently.  Your trust in people, men, in this case, has been shattered.  You will build a womb around yourself for a while,  but this is only the chrysalis for the butterfly you are to one day become that can fly again. Just as Hermione learned to fly again on her cheer squad.

In Canada you can call a Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
In the US there is the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org/organizations
                                 Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN):http://centers.rainn.org
 In Britain: http://rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php

Ireland: http://www.rcni.ie/
Scotland: http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/ 

Europe: Rape Crisis Network: http://www.rcne.com/
Asia: Hotpeaches: http://www.hotpeachpages.net/asia/index.html
International Links: http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html
County by Country:http://aurora.umn.edu/web-docs/pdf/International%20Centers%20for%20Survivors%20of%20Sexual%20Assault.pdf

  I suppose that would be worse. A dead daughter coming home from camp is probably worse than a broken one. Of course, if I were dead, they could just bury me, like we buried Clara Abbey, and move on. Broken is harder to deal with.

-E.K. Johnston (Exit, Pursued By a Bear p 81)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Pursued-Bear-E-K-Johnston/dp/1101994584/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473167080&sr=1-1&keywords=exit+pursued+by+a+bear

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