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

Overview - From #1 New York Times bestselling author E.K. Johnston comes a brave and unforgettable story that will inspire readers to rethink how we treat survivors .

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn't mean what you think it means.  Read more...

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More About Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston
From #1 New York Times bestselling author E.K. Johnston comes a brave and unforgettable story that will inspire readers to rethink how we treat survivors.

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

  • ISBN-13: 9781101994580
  • ISBN-10: 1101994584
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 256
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-UP
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.7 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Young Adult Fiction > Social Themes - Sexual Abuse
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Social Themes - Pregnancy
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Social Themes - Friendship

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-02-15
  • Reviewer: Staff

Johnston (A Thousand Nights) draws from Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," and perhaps as much from too-common present-day headlines, in the fearless story of a 17-year-old Ontario cheerleader getting a sense of her new normal after being drugged and raped at cheer camp. While Hermione's lack of specific memories of the assault offer a kind of protection, triggers surface (the smell of pine, the bass line of a song), and there's the awful reality that any of the six male members of her own team could have been involved. Hermione's relationship with her boyfriend collapses, and a pregnancy test comes back positive, but friends like her co-captain, Molly, are beyond steadfast—Johnston makes it abundantly clear what assets Hermione has in her own physical and mental discipline, as well as in the bedrock unity of her team. While Hermione is a victim, Johnson never portrays her as victimized, instead focusing on how Hermione reasserts control over her life with help from family, friends, and therapy, using her own decisions to push back against something in which she had no such choice. Ages 14–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Mar.)

BookPage Reviews

Beyond victimhood

BookPage Teen Top Pick, April 2016

In the town of Palermo Heights, the cheerleading squad is the high school’s most successful team. Cheer captain Hermione Winters is determined to fill her senior year with more victories. She’s hard at work at preseason training camp when the unthinkable happens: She wakes up in a hospital to learn that she was drugged and raped, and soon finds out she was also impregnated. With her memory blank and the evidence compromised, there is little hope of finding Hermione’s attacker. 

While some rape narratives might focus on lurid details, the whodunit aspect and the protagonist’s downward spiral, E.K. Johnston’s latest novel works on more nuanced ground. Hermione is surrounded by a great support system, which allows her to keep cheering, stay in school and stand strong. Her best friend, Polly, is a case study in how to lend support to someone who has suffered an assault. But there are small changes to confront as well. Hermione feels a strange mix of pride and resentment as she watches friends find their own strength because of her circumstances, and she navigates fear and uncertainty as her memories begin to resurface. Johnston avoids unrealistic clichés by exploring Hermione’s emotions in vivid detail.

It may be pointed out that Hermione is too perfect a victim, one whose narrative undermines more complicated assault scenarios. However, Johnston’s carefully crafted novel makes this simplicity work, thanks to its focus on how strongly Hermione advocates for herself after the fact. Should a young reader ever need guidance following an assault, she could do much worse than to emulate Hermione Winters.


This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews