Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Military Academy, sexism, hazing and bullying
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Dared by her older brother, Amos, to join the military academy when they agree to accept females, Sam accepts. Life in the academy is far from easy. Is there a point where Sam says ‘enough is enough’ or can she prove herself despite the extra harassment?
What if you were dared by a sibling you greatly admired to do something that was so freakin’ hard you’d want to quit before you even began? Would you still go forward or just bow out?
Sam joins the DMA (military academy) on a dare from her older brother, Amos. When he passes away and the academy agrees to begin accepting females, it feels like more than just a dare to Sam. She’s gotta prove herself and not let him down. She becomes one of only four girls accepted. The majority of the guys do not want the girls there, but Sam is specifically targeted because of the military position her father holds and who her brother, Jonathan, is on the DMA campus, the corporal cadet. Sam doesn’t want preferential treatment, but many, many things cross the line, especially with her leader, Matthews, who wants her to suffer and quit.
Sam’s roommate, Katie, constantly finds ways to finagle her way out of workouts, and her friend, Kelly (a boy), seems to be on her side until Sam doesn’t want to break the strict no-dating policy. Everyone’s already watching her like a hawk, so why toe the line with something she could easily prevent? Sam is tough and strong and fights like hell to prove herself. Though her hard work is often overlooked, she is able to make some allies who commend her. Those allies, however, aren’t always around to protect her.
Let me break things down into a little Why I Loved Rites of Passage list:
- Sam and her determination are absolutely unbeatable. Maybe she joined the academy on a whim, but she’s got a lot of fight and stamina. She’s probably one of the bravest female young adult characters I’ve encountered; I would have fled home because I couldn’t have mentally taken the torment.
- I loved seeing a female succeed in a man’s world. Though there were countless times her achievements were overlooked (and I wanted to punch someone in the junk because of it), I was doing mental fist pumps cheering her on as she endured not only the physical training and workouts, but school and the ridicule as well.
- There’s this subtle storyline that had me wondering what happened to her brother Amos. You can tell how much Sam is missing him and really working hard to make him proud, but why did he pass away?
- Sam’s other older brother, Jonathan, is in a ranked position at the military academy. I wondered from the very beginning pages how he would treat his sister amongst a group of guys who clearly were so opposed to having females around. Would he be ballsy enough to stand up for her (assuming he wanted her to be there) or would he only make things worse and overlook any harassment?
- Hensley’s writing flowed so, so well. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the military (aside from attending Texas A&M for a year and seeing my fellow classmate suffer through his first year in the Corps) so the story really needed to be written well for me to grasp the environment and regimented lifestyle. And it was. Perfectly. The details were so crisp and I understood every ounce of Sam’s story.
To be fair, I did have one uncertainty about Rites of Passage:
- The end felt a little abrupt. BUT, my adrenaline was also pumping and I had to finish before bed so the story buildup was there and my anticipation was high…but I needed a little more. My personal hope: that Hensley will continue writing Sam’s story. I just don’t feel like her story is over yet.
Absolutely, 100% add this book to your Must Reads of 2014 list. I think it’ll be one of my top ten favorites for the year. I’d be willing to bet on it.