Book Review: Exit Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnson

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

Posted May 21, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Exit, Pursued By a Bear

Exit, Pursued By a Bear

by E. K. Johnston

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15, 2016
Genre: Contemporary, Sports
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: Lesbian Character(s), LGBTQIAP+ Character(s)
Content Warnings: Abortion, Pregnancy, Rape, Sexual Assault

Rating: ★★★½

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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.


For such a short book, Exit, Pursued By a Bear packs a powerful punch.

Hermione Winters is a senior and a competitive cheerleader.  This year is the last cheerleading camp she’ll go to – she’s determined to make it her best.  And it’s all going pretty well, until she’s drugged at a party and raped.  The story subsequently follows with her trying to come to terms with this new version of herself and trying to catch the rapist.

Exit, Pursued By a Bear is brings in strong themes of friendship, support, and healing.  Hermione’s journey is fairly clean (though I wouldn’t say easy, because recovering from that kind of trauma is never easy).  She has an excellent support system – friends who have her back, parents who care about her, professionals who listen and help.  In an afterword, Johnston relays why she chose to give Hermione such a strong support system and that very few victims of sexual assault are so lucky (there’s also information about resources for survivors in Canada and the US).

Much of Hermione’s story is told through her cheerleading, and it’s done respectfully.  There are stereotypes around cheerleaders and I feel like Johnston avoided them all.  She talks about their athleticism and coordination and strength.  Not once is Hermione or any of her teammates sexualized, which in a book with this theme I think is really important.  There is almost no discussion about their bodies, not superfluous language at all.  Hermione, Polly, Mallory, and the others are all described as powerful, driven women and I thought it was both wonderful and important to the story.

This is not an easy read.  Exit, Pursued By a Bear is written very directly and there’s no language softening the themes.  This book is a bit of a smack across the face to the fact that similar situations to this happen to women all the time.  highly recommend caution in picking this one up if you have triggers.  While there are not a lot of specific details, there are scenes that are difficult to read, and the book is entirely based around the incident.  If you think you can read it, though, it is a strong story about a young woman overcoming a heinous crime and regaining control over her life.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

three and a half star rating


Exit, Pursued By a Bear Stays On the Shelf

Exit, Pursued By a Bear is rated in the grey zone – 3.5 star books sometimes get kept and sometimes don’t, depending on my mood.  This one, I think I’m going to keep.  I don’t think I’m going to keep it forever, but surprisingly, I think I would read it again.  It really was a short and easy book to read, and it was way out of my normal zone.

I also… just… respect it, I guess would be the word?  I think that it’s an important story that doesn’t get told often in this way – where it’s honest and not dramatized.


What was the last book you read about a sport?  I very rarely/never read books where sports play an important role, so in that way Exit, Pursued By a Bear was really different for me.  Are there other books you’d recommend?  Let me know in the comments!

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