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 tiny 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 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 assault 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.
If Shakespeare had written The Winter’s Tale as an episode of Veronica Mars, it would be this.
“Exit, Pursued by a Bear is both a tenderly written, heartfelt coming of age and an incisive, sensitive examination of trauma after an assault. Fresh, memorable, and thought-provoking.” –Courtney Summers, author of All the Rage
“An unflinching exploration of what it means to be a girl, what it means to be a friend, and what it means to be a survivor. A determined, transformative book that every teen girl should read.” –Tess Sharpe, author of Far from You
I’m pretty excited about this book. It’s not out until March 15, 2016, but I’ve already been talking about it with everyone I can possible corner. It’s a departure for her in many ways, but it still has the trademark wit and the attention to detail in the storytelling that makes it a uniquely E.K. Johnston narrative. The story though? Yeah, I felt this story. I know people who have lived this story.
Without further ado…. Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston!
Isn’t it awesome? I love the mix of the caught-in-time cheerleading toss, mixed with the hands below – some open to catch her, while others are closed fists against her. I also love that stark shot of white shoe against the silhouette of Hermione’s figure – so powerful. It echoes the literary Hermione from Shakespeare – don’t know the reference? Read the play. It’s beautiful, I promise.
Want to read it before it is released into the wild? Enter the giveaway (North America only, sorry!) for one lovely ARC right HERE! (or, click this: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ed7900ca2/?)
Many thanks to E.K.Johnston for agreeing to answer some questions about her upcoming release. Please note: this is a SPOILER FREE zone, so you won’t be stumbling across anything you aren’t supposed to know in these questions and answers.
Q: Welcome! This is such a powerful book – I’ve been thinking about it ever since I finished it. Would you mind giving us an overview of the story in your own words?
EKJ: I usually pitch it as Cheerleaders and Shakespeare, but really it’s the story of a girl who absolutely refuses to be perceived as broken. A terrible thing happened, but she is never going to stop being herself, no matter what other people think she ought to do.
Q: Cheerleaders, a Shakespearian adaptation and a distinctly Canadian setting – not exactly the three things most writers would throw together when writing a book! What was the original impetus for this story and how did you end up with this book?
EKJ: Several years ago, I told a friend (in jest), that if I ever wrote a contemporary high school romance, it would have to be a Shakespeare re-write, and it would probably be The Winter’s Tale, because it’s my second favourite of the plays, and that instead of being royal houses, the characters would be cheerleaders. Some time later, I was unpacking books at work, and I found a copy of the play. Then a local MP sponsored a phenomenally insulting bill in Parliament, and I got angry. And the rest is history.
Q: In Hermione’s struggle to retain control of her life, this book goes up against some deeply rooted societal expectations and turns them upside down. Since the conversations surrounding sexual assault continue to evolve, how important was it for you to portray Hermione and her experiences differently than in some other books?
EKJ: As awkward as the phrase is in this context, I wanted to write a Best Case Scenario. I was aware of books like SPEAK (and, later, FAULT LINE and ALL THE RAGE), and steered clear of them deliberately. Those books are desperately important, and I respect them tremendously, but I wanted to see if I could write the story of rape culture being taken on and overcome, even if just for one girl (and those around her). Basically, I am not emotionally suited to writing sad/upsetting stories, so I tried to write a happy one (again, in context, I know how weird that sounds. But still).
Q: You are known for writing strong and unconventional female protagonists, and Hermione is no exception. She’s smart, she’s focused and she refuses to let the assault define her. What qualities do you hope to convey in your main characters?
EKJ: Smart, focused, refusal to let others define her…
No, but seriously. My ideal character is one who Does Not Stop. Sometimes that gets them into trouble, but I love the idea of someone who is relatively sure of who they are (or, at least, who they want to be), going through a Thing and staying on course.
Q: I’ve noticed that each of your books has a main character that benefits from having someone on their side, whether that’s a friend or a sibling. You’ve said yourself on your blog that you have an excellent support system – why was it so important for you to give that to your characters?
EKJ: Well, I guess you need more than one character to make a book interesting. For BEARS!!!, though, I wanted Hermione to have [redacted for spoilers].
Q: This is a very striking cover – what were your initial thoughts when you saw it for the first time?
EKJ: I LOVE THE SHOE!
Q: Three things people might not know about you?
EKJ: 1. I pronounce gummi bears the German way, because when I was little, I always got them from a German person.
2. I will pick chocolate milk over pretty much every other beverage
3. My life was different before Pacific Rim.
Q: Pacific Rim or LotR – and why?
EKJ: LotR (you can’t tell this, because it’s a website, but that answer was given with ZERO hesitation). Much as I adore Pacific Rim, LotR is my childhood, my university career, and my development as a person (and writer) way too much for Pacific Rim to even touch. Ask me again in 50 years.
Q: Previous books have some sad outcomes for ponies and goats – why do you have it in for farm animals?
EKJ: Nothing bad happened to the goats! I am quite allergic to most animals, though, and since I like breathing, I have very little sympathy for them.
Q: Best/Worst part of growing up in a small town?
EKJ: Best: Everyone knows you!
Worst: Everyone knows you!
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
You can follow Kate on Twitter (@ek_johnston) to learn more about Alderaanian political theory than you really need to know, or on Tumblr (ekjohnston) if you’re just interested in pretty pictures.
E.K. Johnston is represented by Adams Literary.
This cover reveal was made possible through the kindness and support of Dutton Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House of Canada and the author. Exit, Pursued by a Bear will be released on March 15, 2016. ISBN: 9781101994580, 256 pages.
You know you want it. You know you need it – first. Be sure to pre-order your copy NOW.
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