Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: RITES OF PASSAGE by Joy N. Hensley

Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review

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've read a lot of amazing books this year and it's only September oh my gosh it's already September, WHERE DID MY YEAR GO?. I can't possibly pick favorites, but I can confidently say that Rites of Passage would definitely be one of them. This book gave me that satisfying, slightly remorseful feeling of binging until super late at night, only getting a few hours of sleep. 

And Sheldon accurately describes my attitude during reading. My eyes may have gone a little droopy, but my insides were going crazy. I wanted answers. I wanted my conclusion. But I loved reading it so much that I had a conflict inside. Just a few reasons why this blew me away is below. 

1. The characters connected with me so easily it was ridiculous. I felt like I had known Sam forever, like a beloved character, right when I started reading. Some people may say that she did have a similar voice as other characters (like that's a negative thing), but I completely enjoyed it. It was comfortable. And in a way, it was refreshing. It was like meeting tons of new people constantly, getting to know them, trying to decide if you liked them. It's exhausting. So when you run into someone familiar and you already have your judgement in place, it's relieving. Please don't tell me I'm the only one with this problem. Sam gave me a great breather.

But then the other characters were easy to connect to as well. I loved Drill from the start as well, knowing he was special. I was reluctant about the other girls, but I could easily tell who the trustworthy guys were in the story.

2. The conflict twisted my insides. I felt things for Sam. She was stubborn, determined, smart, and just all-around tough. The sexism of the school outraged me and so I sympathized with her. But then it came time to fully meet the antagonists. I don't think I ever felt my insides twist so much for a contemporary. We were supposed to feel disgusted and the author definitely succeeded in that feeling. Sam was put through abuse, plain torture, and unthinkable sexism. Leaders purposefully planned to harm her and if I was her, I'd be terrified out of my mind. Conflict sounds so tiny compared to what I and Sam felt through the story, but the "conflict" was truly well-done.

3. The romance didn't consume the story, but it was still great to read about. Hensley definitely knew what she was doing. I've read many (and I mean many) stories where they have promising synopses and then suddenly we have the displeasure of them being consumed by unwanted romances. Having a romance is in no way a bad thing. I'm strong pro-romance. But if there are bigger issues at play (or could be at play) then I don't want to feel like I'm in a sappy, contemporary love story. It's disappointing. So with Rites of Passage, I loved the moments with Drill and Sam, but those moments didn't make up the book. There was a time where I felt like it bordered the line, but most of the time, they kept it in check. And while they had great chemistry, they also had a valuable respect, friendship, and work ethic together as well. Now that's refreshing.

I loved the story so much that I hate to even mention negatives to be honest. Of course, I still will. My main problem was the fact that the problems were solved a little too quickly. It wasn't as bad as others I've read, that's for sure. It just stumbled a little into the trap I see a lot of contemporaries fall into: having a rushed, magical solution. I also groaned at the fact that it felt too open-ended. From what I know, it doesn't seem as if there's a sequel in works. The ending of the first book feels like it though. While I would LOVE a sequel, I don't think that'll happen (at least anytime soon), so points are taken off for the open-ending...of sorts.

I want another.
Verdict: An all-around enjoyable contemporary that YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE NOW.


  1. I don't actually mind open endings, but I do hate when they feel rushed or too easily resolved. But considering how much everyone and their mama is raving about this book, I think I could overlook that. Why, oh, why did I pass on reviewing this?!?

  2. I loved this one and I'm so happy you did too! I'm pretty sure it will be one of my year-end faves too. Hopefully we will get some sort of sequel! Great review & gifs :)

  3. I just can't with that ending, Summer! I wanted to read the book so bad, but now I fear I won't unless there's a sequel in the future. I can't stand open endings. :( They bother me way too much.
    Really happy you enjoyed this one though! I can see it gave you all the feels. :D

  4. I'm really glad you liked this book! I should add this to my TBR List... great review!

  5. As you know, our feelings about Hensley's debut are similar. The ending wasn't great, but everything leading up to it was! It was exciting and emotional! Though a few events are a little unrealistic (and I'll have to chat with you to explain), I think Hensley understands characters, and no matter what crazy thing happened, I was hooked; Sam's story demanded me to be. It was gripping! Ahhh, and the romance! I'm realizing I'm not the type of girl who wants to read straight-up romance novels, but I do love a little romance in my books; I just like them to be in the background, and I prefer the slow-burn type -- which is what we get here! I LOVED Drill, and his chemistry with Sam was steamy without being overbearing. Plus, these two worked so well together; the respect they have for one another was beautifully mature! I just want MORE! I hope we get the sequel we're all hoping for. Til then, I'm comforted by the thought of Hensley's next project: a girl in mixed martial arts!

    Awesome review, Summer!

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

  6. It sounds like a contemporary I could enjoy with a strong main character and more going on than just romance. Great review! :)

  7. I love all the gifs that you used in this review Summer, I have heard so many raving reviews about this book in the last week, so I'm glad that you were able to find yourself amongst those who have enjoyed this too. I love books which keep you up in the wee hours of the morning. I haven't read one of those books in a long time, so I'm feeling super excited about giving this book a go! Lovely review as always! :)

  8. Yes, I do need this!! I really do! :) Great review, Summer!