K.A. Wiggins's Reviews > Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
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it was amazing
bookshelves: canadian

This book is brilliant and painful and beautiful and necessary and I read it in one sitting from midnight-ish to 3 am ish, lol.

Let's start with the trigger warning, which is mildly spoilerish. There is rape (off the page/non-graphic), medical and police coverage of the aftermath, abortion and ptsd/emotional-flooding type reactions. It's not written in a histrionic way - if anything, the storytelling mode is quite matter-of-fact - but it's almost more of an emotional read because of it.

Despite the brutal core circumstance of the story, nearly everything besides the rape reads like a best-case-scenario. The response of teachers, medical and police staff, parents, friends... yes, there are emotional, physical and social consequences of the rape, but there are also many strongly supportive characters who surround and care for the protagonist. It's more like what we wish survivors could experience, as opposed to the self-harm and suicide-driving experience of most real-life rape survivors. And despite some rumour-mongering that the (perhaps unrealistically strong) protagonist deals with astonishingly well, there's not nearly the level of accusation and victim-blaming-and-shaming that we see in most IRL cases. The protagonist is a high-schooler, not previously sexually active, not drunk or heavily drinking (roofied), at a supervised event in a relatively controlled environment.

Really excellent, if optimistic-to-the-point-of-wish-fulfillment, treatment of character reactions. It's a hopeful story, in the end, which I love to see in a YA novel on the subject and is probably as or more helpful than more 'realistic' novels. Painful but not destructive. Fair and evenhanded but incisive. A strong and considered message, but not preachy. Excellent story and character growth - it does not read as a contrived plot to deal with teen rape. The author references working hard to revise an impassioned first draft into a stronger, more coherent story in her end notes, and I can only applaud her effort - she obviously put a lot of work in with her team and came out with something spectacular.

As an aside, in her (magical realism? alternate-timeline fantasy?) novel Owen, dragon hunter of Trondheim she deals with the idea of using the press to put out and shape narratives of how people should act instead of how they do act. Coincidence? My bet's on not.
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Reading Progress

April 14, 2017 – Shelved
April 14, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
May 5, 2017 – Started Reading
May 6, 2017 – Finished Reading
November 22, 2017 – Shelved as: canadian

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