Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 416 Pages
Published September 2014
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Summary: 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 petty...no 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 a copy of Rites of Passage from my co-blogger Amber as a Christmas present, and I squealed so hard when I opened it!!
This book was super intense, and it was amazing. I loved every second of it. Girl power! This book makes me want to get up and go do push ups. Or jog. Or lift weights. (Although I'll be doing none of those things, since I have books to read!)
As the summary explains, Sam McKenna's last dare that her brother ever gave her was to become one of the first females to enroll in the Denmark Military Academy, nicknamed the DMA. Upon finding him after he committed suicide, she made the decision to complete the dare - never mind the fact that she has never in her life turned down a dare from one of her brothers. And it's gotten her in a world of trouble before. Nevermind the fact that her father is one of the highest-ranked military officers there is and her two older brothers are already involved in the military - so she has a lot to keep up with, being part of Platoon McKenna.
So Sam enrolls in the DMA, thinking that her knowledge of military life from being a military brat herself would be enough to get her by. Physically, she's perfectly on par with the boys - if not a little better. However, a great majority of the DMA recruits and military advisers (namely, 99.9999% percent of them, including Sam's own older brother Johnathan) aren't happy that she's there. And they're going to go to great lengths to stop her.
Some of the things that Sam had to endure just broke my heart, they were that horrible. She dealt with name calling, shoving, spitting, kicking, and even worse physical abuse that you'll barely be able to believe. Throughout it all, Sam keeps a tough face on and sticks it out with her fellow female recruits to prove a point - they're just as good as the boys, and they can't be stopped.
I recommend everyone reading this book, boy or girl, at one point or another. It's an excellent demonstration of sticking to your promises and prevailing through the hard times, and in this book Sam McKenna experiences some hard times that none of us will ever have to endure in our lifetimes. The rigorous training at a military academy is hard enough, but dealing with the force and physical training on top of being a girl and being abused and mistreated because of your gender is just so painful to think about.
I definitely think that Hensley created an excellent character in Sam McKenna. She's brave, and strong, and incredibly resilient, always fighting for her rightful spot in the DMA, despite how members of her own recruit company treat her. And like I've been saying a million times already, some of them treat her really, really badly.
All in all, Rites of Passage was an inspiring read that I'm so glad I picked up. Joy N. Hensley is phenomenal at building characters and setting up a story. This is my first five-star review of the year, and I wouldn't want it to go to any other book! If you're reading this review, scroll right back to the top and add this book to your TBR list on Goodreads. You won't regret it - I promise!