Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a small town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The rape wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
"E.K. Johnston has a seemingly limitless range.... This is realistic fiction at it's best."—The Globe & Mail
★ "Johnston’s clever—but never precious—update of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is unflinching but not at all graphic in its treatment of sexual violence.... Middle and high school readers will pass this powerful, engaging story around and around."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ "Fierce and gorgeously drawn, this is a rape story that doesn’t focus on victimhood."—Booklist, starred review
★ “A beautifully written portrait of a young woman facing the unthinkable, this is a must-buy for high school collections.”—SLJ, starred review
"Exit, Pursued by a Bear is an important new novel comparable with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.”—VOYA.
"This story of a cheerleader rising up after a traumatic event will give you Veronica Mars-level feels that will stay with you long after you finish."—Seventeen Magazine
A NPR Best Book of 2016
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
A Booklist Best Book of 2016
A New York Public Library 2016 Top Ten Book for Teens
A Chicago Public Library Best Teen Fiction of 2016
A Globe & Mail Best Book of 2016
A CBC Best Book of 2016
A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2016
A Bustle Top 30 YA Book of 2016
A Bookish Best Book of 2016
A Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
A finalist for Audible’s Best Young Adult Audiobook of 2016
A 2017 Ontario Library Association White Pine Honor Book
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I start running after school. Usually I get enough of a workout between practice and gym class that I don’t do extra, but this week I feel like I might explode if I stop moving. So I run. I run up and down the streets of Palermo, looking at the houses and coloured leaves on the trees and trying to hold on to the feeling that my body is my own and limitless. I run on the country roads, the gravel crunching under my feet—until the smell of pine makes me feel sick and I fly back to the safety of concrete sidewalks. I run and run, and when I finally fall asleep at night, I am tired enough that I don’t remember my dreams.
One night, I pass the church my father and I attend whenever we’re both home on Sunday morning (so . . . about once a month, in a good month). I’ve passed the church every other night this week, but tonight the light in the office is on. Once upon a time, churches were always open, a sanctuary if you needed them. But the world changes, I guess. I haven’t given a single thought to the church since it happened, but when I see the light on, my feet slow down of their own accord, and I am knocking on the door before I know it. My fist sounds heavy against the wood. I am already having second thoughts, but it would be rude to run away. Just when I think maybe the light was left on accidentally, the door opens, and there is the minister, dressed in normal clothes, and looking a bit confused. When he sees me, his eyes widen for a moment before he makes his face neutral.
“Hello, Hermione,” he says. I wonder if he remembers my name because he’s good at his job or because I’ve been on the news. He doesn’t ask me if I’m okay. Instead he waves me in, and shuts the door. Maybe it’s because I’m in a church. Maybe it’s because this is the man who baptized me. But I’m not afraid.
“Hello, Reverend Rob,” I say, and the door latch echoes in the hallway. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“No, no. Just practicing for Sunday. All this time, and I still get a bit of stage fright leading up to a sermon.”
I follow Rob back into his office, which is warmly lit and full of old books. He waves me into one of the seats. I have just realized what it is I want to say, what I want to ask him.
“Would you like water or tea?” he asks. “That’s all I have on hand.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” I say, feeling profoundly awkward. I keep finding new ways to do that. “I don’t come here very often.”
“That’s okay.” He’s sitting comfortably in his chair. People are never comfortable around me anymore. “I know how life goes. Schedules and the Church don’t always get along, so I do my best to operate an open door policy.”
“Right,” I say. “I have two favours to ask. One’s a bit presumptuous. The other is . . . also presumptuous.”
“Please. Feel free to ask.”
“Thank you.” I pause for a moment to gather my thoughts. I think of the looks I’ve been getting at the grocery store, and take a deep breath. “Please don’t ask people to pray for me.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Actual Rating 3.5 Stars Before I begin: Books about rape or any kind of sexual abuse are VERY VERY important reads to me because I live in a culture where victim blaming is widespread and girls don’t speak up for the most part when they are violated. When I heard about Exit, Pursued by a Bear, more than a year ago I knew I would read it at some point or the other. It had a story that involved rape that hasn’t been handled before specifically one involving pregnancy, the head cheerleader and a date rape drug. And so, when I picked it up two days ago, I was very excited. The book had its plus points and its drawbacks but let’s break them down: WHAT I LIKED: 1. NO VICTIM BLAMING: I wanted to applaud this book when it didn’t go through the whole “the girl was asking for it,” arc because THERE SHOULDN’T BE A QUESTION ABOUT THIS. Nobody who has ever been raped has asked for it and NO MEANS NO. The one time it did come up, it was handled positively and I loved it. I wish the world didn’t victim blame and this aspect of the book made me very happy. 2. STRONG FRIENDS = STRONG SUPPORT SYSTEM: Another thing was that all of Hermoine’s friends didn’t magically abandon her but STUCK WITH HER at all times, supported her and they were just there for her. Exit, Pursued by a Bear broke the stereotype of “catty” cheerleaders and showed that these cheer teammates and friends were true friends and also a support system for Hermoine. WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: 1. THE LACK OF EMOTION IN THE WRITING: Hermoine was raped after the she was given a date rape drug. She was left in a lake to die until she was found. It’s gruesome, it’s horrible that a human could have the capability to do that. I felt violated sitting in the confines of my room but I NEVER felt it from Hermoine. She actually addresses it too – the fact that she couldn’t remember the rape and hence didn’t feel like it happened to her but some other girl WHICH I UNDERSTAND, and it’s definitely a new perspective but it all felt so mechanical to me. I feel like a little more emotion in the WRITING of Hermoine could have gone a long way in this book. 2. THE BOYFRIEND: Leon McKenna was a POINTLESS character. They were never really serious, it was as if he just existed to create some unnecessary drama. I didn’t understand their relationship while they were together, I didn’t get the reason for his jealousy because it was mentioned briefly in hindsight and I DEFINITELY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND how he could tell people those things about Hermoine. REALLY? I could never say this was a bad book – it’s a good story that handles a very important topic. I could never not recommend this book – we should all be reading these books to understand and grow as human beings. So pick up Exit, Pursued by a Bear, or pick up Patty Blount’s Some Boys or Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It – they deserve to be read. The characters are fictional but their stories happen every day to boys and girl around the world. Go read this book. It deserves to be read. These stories need to be heard.
This book intrigued me because of the cover and title, but I am so glad I picked it up. The book follows Hermione Winters as she navigates her last year of cheer camp. Hermione is tough, ambitious, and gutsy. I hated her crappy boyfriend, but loved her almost immediately. Her best friend, Polly, is a sarcastic firebrand who doesn't take crap from anyone. The story is set up like a typical contemporary YA, until Hermione is roofied and found waist deep in the lake after the end of camp dance. This story turns the usual rape narrative on its head in a few ways that I really liked. First, Hermione doesn't every really remember her attack. Second, she has an amazing support system. Polly is her unending champion, her parents do everything they can to help her (including getting her a therapist), and the police and hospital staff are professional and do their jobs as they should. I am 100% aware that Hermione's narrative is not the norm. Most rape victims do not have a flawless support system and are too often failed by the system. But I liked this story because it showed a character who wasn't broken because of one event in her life. She gets up and fights. She has the best people on her side. I hope one day we don't have to have rape stories, but until that day comes, I hope we can see more stories like Hermione's, where the system doesn't fail her and she is allowed to move on and heal from something horrible. The high schoolers in this novel felt so real to me. Their inside jokes and companionship reminded me of my own friends, even if we were nowhere near cheerleaders in the social hierarchy. Polly is a delightful character and you could read this book for her alone, but either way: Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a gripping, powerful novel that will leave you feeling more hopeful and empowered than you might guess.
This book is outstanding, it was not a waste of my time.
This book didn't quite make me cry, but it came pretty damn close. I loved the emphasis on friendships, especially unbreakable female friendships between girls who participate in a sport that is frequently portrayed as catty and shallow. I loved that this story wasn't about secrets, and that most of the people Hermione knew in her small town were informed and understanding and supportive. I loved the frank conversations she had with her parents, and the scenes with her therapist. I loved that topics like therapy and rape and abortion were discussed with unflinching, refreshing honesty. I loved the bond between Hermione and Polly, and the way their friendship evolved without changing as a result of Hermione being date raped. Most of all, I loved the author for acknowledging that victims of rape and sexual assault are usually judged so much more harshly than Hermione is, and for writing EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR so that there is one solid written example of what we, as a society, owe survivors. A brilliant, painful, necessary book.
This book really blew me away. It would be a great read like to follow up last year’s All the Rage by Courtney Summers. I love that we saw a different side of rape here. Hermione deals with her tragedy in a unique way, and a way we don’t often see. And while this is, and should not be, every girl’s reaction to the circumstances. Hopefully, it reminds girls they still have autonomy in a time an important choice has been stolen from them. I love that we never second guess Hermione’s choice to have an abortion. It is matter-of-fact. This book is all about Hermione getting her autonomy back. To continue to make her own choices. I loved her. And Polly, who is a damn good friend. I also LOVED the adults in this book! Adults are not always going to react perfectly to things. Sometimes they can be just as hurtful as teens, especially as they are in a place of authority. But I loved that the adults in this novel handled things right. Double points for a member of the clergy that is a positive representation of his profession! I want teens reading YA to know they can get help from adults in their lives, that they are not alone. And I’ve been getting frustrated by some titles this year not reflecting this accurately, with all adults as the enemy. Also, round of applause for the positive representation of cheerleading and popularity. Sometimes people are popular because people actually like them. Nice to see that reflected. As expected, Johnston’s voice was perfect for this novel. Though largely episodic, this worked well with how active Hermione was. And the scenes were artfully selected. The short length of the novel worked too. We got in and got out with what we needed. We didn’t dwell on anything unnecessary, or become too heavy to bear, as this is hard subject material. A great addition to the YA canon, with something to say. I just wish, still, it wasn’t necessary. Also, look at that spectacular cover. I love it a lot.
I feel like I’m part of the minority when I rate this book. It has such great reviews on goodreads but I really don’t see the appeal. Plot This book was definitely not one of my favorites. I originally found it interesting because I was curious to see how a cheerleader who is popular in school changed once a traumatic event happened. There was a lot of slow build up in the beginning up until the point she was raped. The entire story just felt anti – climatic. I was waiting for her to feel something; any kind of emotion but it was never there. After it happened, she kind of laughed it off. She got mad at anyone who couldn’t say the word “rape”. She got mad when she realized people didn’t know what to say to her. I feel like she was upset for all the wrong reasons and nothing about this book sat well with me. It ended up feeling like the entire event got brushed off. Most rape stories are about trying to find the perpetrator or about dealing with being raped. Exit, Pursued by a Bear included neither. It’s different but not in a good way. It left me unsatisfied and highly disappointed. 2. Characters The one good thing I can say about this book is that it teaches you a lot about friendships. Polly and Hermione are friendship goals! They always defended each other and I really enjoyed their interactions. Polly was my favorite character though. She seemed like the most developed even though she was just the side character. She was very honest about everything and she didn’t change her personality when she found out about the rape. In all honesty, I feel like that is exactly what Hermione needed for a situation like that. She needed someone solid who she could rely on which makes their friendship the best part about the book. Hermione was a bit confusing. I felt bad she couldn’t remember what happened but at the same time it was very hard to understand where she was coming from. My guess is that because she couldn’t put her feelings into words, it made it a lot harder for others to understand as well and that is where I struggled with this book. I didn’t feel anything and as a result, this book put me in a reading slump. The pacing was very slow through half of the book. It had its good moments but overall, I wasn’t a fan. The ending was left open ended which would normally be fine but it didn’t really make up for the slow beginning. This book was a really big letdown. I don’t know if I would recommend this book. I think it’s entirely up to the reader. https://legendoflostbooks.wordpress.com/
I really loved this book. It reminded me so much of Bring It On, one of my favorite movies, but heavier. The characters were so normal for cheerleaders. Perhaps because they live in Canada? I connected with Hermione right away. She's named for her father's love of Harry Potter, and she's very dedicated to her sport. So much so that she's told her boyfriend they won't be having sex during their two weeks at cheer camp before their senior year of high school. Hermione is co-captain of the cheerleading squad, along with her best friend, Polly. And they have a mission. To break the curse. Each grade at their school has lost one student to drunk driving and one girl has gotten pregnant. A fellow student already died a few years ago, but Hermione is determined that no one in their class will get pregnant. They only have 10 months left of high school. How hard can it be? Then Hermione is drugged and raped the last night of camp. Johnston handles this topic very well. The story was unique because everyone believes Hermione right away since she was found unconscious in the lake. It was interesting to see how everything played out. It's so different from other books dealing with rape. The other interesting element is that Hermione cannot remember what happened or who did it. I loved Polly! She was the most amazing friend EVER. She stays with Hermione in the hospital and through everything else she is always there. She never gets petty or acts in any way other than loving and open and wonderful. Pretty much everyone on the squad was very supportive. Hermione's parents were a little awkward, but believable. The teachers and guidance counselor were a little strange, but they're in a very small town in Ontario, so I didn't really question it. This book is short, and Hermione's voice is so easy to read despite the weighty content. I enjoyed being inside her head. I also liked how the book was broken into different parts with quotes from Shakespeare. Apparently this book is a retelling of A Winter's Tale. I've never read that play. I struggled with the rating, but I settled on 4 stars (instead of 5) since I don't give out half stars. I didn't necessarily feel like I needed to shout from the rooftops and tell everyone to read this book, but I did really, really enjoy it. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/04/book-review-exit-pursued-by-bear-ya.html
I really loved this book and how it dealt with so many things in a different way than I've ever seen before. It showed a rape victim who was surrounded by support and refused to be seen as a victim. It showed cheerleading as something that takes a lot of athletic ability and should be respected for it. Hermione is the main character of the book and she is a great one. She is raped at cheerleading camp, and she doesn't remember any of it. She doesn't let this define who she is. That doesn't mean that things are easy for her, because she still does struggle. But she doesn't want people to see her as "that raped girl." She wants to continue cheering with her team, and competing with them. She isn't going to give up because something bad happened to her. One of my favorite characters in the book was Polly, who is Hermione's best friend. She is so supportive and is there with Hermione through everything. She is also the type of person who is very good and sticking up for people, and people are a bit intimidated by her, so they listen to her. I loved reading about the friendship between Polly and Hermione. And while most of Polly's story was shown in relation to Hermione's story arc, she also got her own story arc, which I loved. I also enjoyed reading about Hermione meeting her therapist and her interactions with him. Even though she jokingly said he was the worst therapist ever, I think he was really good for her healing process. (Despite the comments that he made about cheerleading and cheerleaders). It was really important for her that she had someone who wasn't going to try to make their career out of writing books about working with her or something like that. If you like YA contemporary, read this book.
The author addresses some powerful subjects in this novel but I wasn’t all that impressed with the way the characters handled these topics. I felt I was only given the emotions that were visible, ones that others could see and that the deep, heartfelt emotions and energy were being left out. I enjoyed the host of characters that the author provided for it provided me with plenty of individuals to connect with and to cast my eyes upon. I believe I liked Polly the best. She was calm and provided stability to Hermione and she was fun. Although she was afraid to show her true colors to others, I think with time she will spread her wings and fly. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, she was able to capture the intensity of the situation at times and then able to deliver to her readers a mystery, slowing down the pace and the strength of her writing. The author used some great language inside this novel, moments that moved me where the characters showed love and concern for those around them. Seeing this novel on blogs and being mentioned on many websites, I knew I needed to read it, as I love to read novels based on these types of issues and I am glad that I did. I enjoyed reading it. Hermione is attending her last year of cheerleading camp. She is with some of her friends and of course, there are some new campers this year. Polly is her best friend and they have been cheering for years. Its’ the night of the dance and the two girls are out on the floor dancing amongst many others. It’s hot, crowded and Hermione is thirsty from dancing but having a blast! Someone puts a plastic cup in her hand, it’s cold and wet and she drinks it. Looking to throw the cup away, she hears an unfamiliar male voice informing her that he’ll show her the waste can. As heaviness overcomes her, she doesn’t recall the trash being in that direction but she follows him anyway and suddenly, her world turns black. Awaking with Polly beside her and a nurse nearby, Hermione tries to search for answers. She comes up short. This is not good and I’m thinking back to the following pages to see if I have missed any clues. Polly is her savior as she remains calm and collective as Hermione listens to her recap last night’s events. They have pieced together what they know and Hermione remembers nothing after finding the garbage can with the mystery boy. There is no set protocol for these crimes for everyone is different, it depends on the victim for they set the stage and now Hermione is trying to reach back through time and search for memories which she cannot obtain at the moment. The police are called in and start their investigation. Her parents, they are there and fighting their own battles while trying to help their daughter. Hermione has a lot to consider with many friends beside her and many individuals just watching. This single event changes many lives and the author does a wonderful job showing the readers this effect. A novel that makes you wake up.
Good read, interesting, fast paced.