Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

December 2, 2014 Young Adult Book Reviews 3 ★★★★★

Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. HensleyTitle: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Published by: HarperTeen on September 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Source: YABC
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Click it: Goodreads | Amazon

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

I received this book for free from YABC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

One Line: An excellent debut with a strong female protagonist and a powerful message. I loved it!

Rites of Passage is just one of those gems that you never see coming. It definitely surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. I flew through it! It was just something about the storyline, the pacing, and the characters that drew me in. It was interesting seeing what students in a military academy go through, the discipline and strength it takes to train and reach your full potential. I also loved the idea that Sam, along with some other girls, was basically a pioneer, being the first class of girls in an all-boys academy. She faced a lot of adversity and hate for her choices, but I loved that despite her reasoning for joining (because of a dare), she never gave up.

Sam is such an amazing character. She’s so strong-willed and tough. And let me tell you, they put her through so much crap in this school, I wanted to punch faces for her. This is why I know I wouldn’t make it in military school, because I would not have the patience that Sam had in dealing with some of those narrow-minded, jerk-faced creeps. I felt so much anger for Sam and it made me appreciate and respect so much seeing what she went through and knowing how she never let it deter her from reaching her goals. She is definitely someone I would like to hang out with in real life.

The romance was minimal, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Dean is such a good guy, very kind and sweet, yet also respectful. I liked how he pushed Sam, in a positive way, and helped her become a better recruit. Sure, I could’ve used more moments between the two, and I’m a bit saddened by how things worked out for them in some aspects, but it’s understandable. It says a lot for a book when I love it even if there’s barely any romance in it, so you know it’s a good book!

I think I would’ve liked to have known more about Amos. Yes, we know why he died and how, but I would’ve liked to have known more about him as a person, considering how important he was to Sam. Maybe like memories of them together. I would’ve even settled for some memories of her and Jonathan, her other brother, who I really didn’t like for much of the book. Honestly, I really didn’t like anyone in her family. They were all pretty messed up in their own ways or self-involved and I was surprised to see how normal and relatable Sam turned out to be.

Also, I really didn’t care any of the other girls. Katie was weak and Bekah definitely got on my nerves because of what she did throughout the book. I did like some of the guys though, those who actually supported Sam. You get a real sense of teamwork and comradery, which I really liked. As for the bad guys, Hensley did a great job at making me hate Matthews. What a jerk! It’s that line of pig-headed, chauvinistic thinking that always works my nerves. I thought it was pretty crazy how far this secret society business went and who all was involved. Things are definitely more complicated and twisted than you’d think.

So yeah, Rites of Passage is just plain awesome. Seriously, I want a sequel to this book SO bad! The ending was great and all, but I wanted more. I want to know what happens next. I need more of these characters. That’s how good this book is. I love the message that it sends to girls, so positive and done right! In a realistic world, you can’t get more kick-ass than Sam McKenna. Overall, I’d say this was one of my favorite books of the year and definitely a stellar debut. Everyone needs to read this book!

*This review was first published on YABC.*

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