Genres: Realistic, Military, Young Adult
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Check out on GOODREADS
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.
This book was not a joy to read but will definitely be a highlight of my year, and something I will continuously push to people to try out. It’s a well-written book that deals with an important issue in today’s world: sexism.
No matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, sexism is a thing and many women suffer the consequences of the ideals certain people refuse to let go. Joy highlights those so very well in her debut. She doesn’t brush over things, she doesn’t sugar coat them. She gives us the hard truth.
Sam was a wonderful character. I LOVED her strength, but I also loved that she wasn’t portrayed as a complete hard-ass. The things that were done to her HURT her. She was too scared to stand up to her bullies and that hurt her, too. I loved that she did her best to be strong so that her enemies wouldn’t be proven right, but she wasn’t perfect, either. There were times she refused to understand the troubles her fellow females were going through, because she didn’t want them as a whole to appear weak. Not that I blame her; I am pretty sure that under the same circumstances, I would have acted the same way, but I don’t think I would have been able to remain half as strong as she did.
I also loved that Sam wasn’t actually alone; there was a small assemble of people who actually believed in her and wanted her to succeed. They didn’t turn on her when they didn’t get initiated. They could see that she was working harder than the rest of them because of the pressure on her and they supported her. Then there was Jax and I was really happy to see another female with such a positive role in the book. There was also the swoon-worthy Dril,l and, let’s not forget, Reverend.
Going back to the sexism bit, it’s important to see that not even her own family supported her decision. Her brother turned into a douche, her father didn’t think of women highly in the first place, and if it were up to her mom, she would be safely stuffed inside a closet. Sam didn’t give up, though. Not when she was spat out on her first day there. Not when during one of the marches, people openly yelled at her to quit and go home and ‘leave the hard work to the rest of us’.
Some of the actions of her bullies, although I don’t want to call them that because that word doesn’t even start to encompass them, were so extreme and it was hard to read about how their actions affected Sam. As a feminist, it made me want to scream and I had to take breaks at certain points just so that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed as a result of all the emotions I was feeling.
All that overwhelming stuff aside, I loved how the author structured the military school. It felt realistic, which isn’t surprising because from what I understood, the author attended one too.
I also adored the romance. It was a slow burn and I loved watching Sam and Drill work and just be cute together. I was definitely not happy with the way things ended, though. Reviewers said that the romance ended openly but I had no idea it would be THAT open. It makes me even sadder because it was done realistically. Unfortunately, as much as I love realistic, I’d also rather my romances not be that up in the air.
The one thing I really want to give kudos to Joy on, everything else wonderful about this book aside, was her decision to redeem Sam’s family. Considering their actions, it was a risk. I mean, how do you forgive your family for behaving like assholes and being completely unsupportive? Joy handled it in a great way because she didn’t excuse their actions, but instead took a different route and I think it worked very well. There was also the redemption of a few other characters and I also liked seeing that.
With all the good things I just said about this book, what I didn’t like was how some things were kind of forgotten about and not dealt with. It wasn’t anything major, but I thought that if some of those bits had been expanded on, it would have undoubtedly contributed to the novel.
This is most certainly a book that you wouldn’t want to miss out on. It’s beautifully written and it deals with such an important issue in today’s world, one that isn’t dealt with nearly enough. It can be intense and overwhelming and so painfully hard to read at times (you will be in constant need of hugs) but it is just a book everyone needs to read.
Fun fact: I am a wuss but a couple of hours after finishing this book, I told my mom I wanted to attend a military school. She laughed. I laughed. You can laugh at me, too.
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