Release Day Review: Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley

Rites of PassageGenres: Realistic, Military, Young Adult
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher HarperTeen
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.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.4
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Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).


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  1. says

    This sounds so great!! I love interesting settings, and I’m a feminist too so it sounds like a really important read. And sad :( LOL I love how you said you wanted to go to a military school, though. I don’t think any of my blogger friends would survive :P since, you know, you have to go OUTSIDE. And there’s probably no wi-fi (oh, the horror).

    Definitely one to put on the TBR :)
    Emily @ The Loony Teen Writer recently posted…Top Ten Underrated YA BooksMy Profile

  2. says

    Sexism is definitely still a thing. A huge thing. People seem to think it doesn’t exist any more but, man, it’s there every day in every country around the world! So I’m glad Joy has actually written a book that shows this and doesn’t try to sweep it under the rug. She gets awesome points from me for that!

    Sam sounds so fierce and determined – MY KIND OF MC!

    And Drill sounds so *sigh* hehe. What happened at the end though? How open was it left? WHAT? I hate that :(

    (I would fail so bad at military school. Like, it would be in record books how useless I’d be haha)
    Allie @ Little Birdie recently posted…Cutting Those Pesky Stars in Half {The Birdie Musings}My Profile

  3. says

    Yay I’m so happy to read this girl. I totally agree with you about everything and it’s really hard not to admire Sam. She such an amazing character.
    Also if you need help with pushing this book into people’s hand on into their faces you know where to find me. I think we made a good start as I truly hope that Faye will read it ;)) We rock, dude! :D

    Amazing review, hon :)
    Tanja recently posted…Bookish Problems #8 – It’s Saturday? Already?My Profile

  4. says

    SEXISM WILL MAKE ME ANGRY, which is why I haven’t read this yet. I mean, I start and read for a few and then I stop, and then I get distracted. It’s horrible! Now I’m even more scared ’cause of the more-than-bullies and asshole family you mention, but I WILL TRY IT AND I WILL BE HOOKED, I swear! I don’t want that open ending though, I really don’t, especially if you didn’t “like it” like it. :(
    Stuti recently posted…Mini Review: The Golem and the JinniMy Profile

  5. says

    The ending was definitely way too open ended! Is she leaving things open for a sequel or something…? Not sure, but I didn’t like it. Overall, I think for me, things just felt too over the top. I didn’t quite get the romance either- unlike you, I thought it wasn’t particularly well developed.
    Still, glad you enjoyed the book!
    Nara recently posted…Read ALL THE BOOKS Update: AugustMy Profile

  6. says

    YEAH RASHIKA!!!!! I’m so glad you loved this one too!!! I do agree on the romance, I would have loved that to be a bit more definitive as well after all they went through, but everything else in this book just blew me away. Like you, I will be pushing this book on anyone and everyone I see, I just think it’s one that shouldn’t be missed. SO GOOD!!!!
    Jenny @ Supernatural Snark recently posted…Review: Lark RisingMy Profile

  7. says

    I was really happy to see that you loved this as much as I did, Rashika. I also loved how the author showed us a clear picture of sexism. It’s always great when an author manages to spread an important message through their books.
    Just thinking of this book is making me so angry. It’s definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time and that I will repeatedly push on people.
    Great review, Rashika! :) You did the book justice for sure!
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  8. says

    “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.” <— THIS.

    RASHIKA!! This book sounds amazing. Sexism…ugh! It's a great topic for discussion. Can we just all be equalists?? And a 4.4 rating is solid rating and you know what that means, right? Yup, I'm adding it to my TBR. *wink* As always, beautiful review! ♥
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  9. says

    This sounds really interesting Rashika! It’s so hard to find books that deal with delicate topics in general, but a million times harder in YA. It’s a shame because authors seem to think that the YA community isn’t “ready” to experience topics that are thought-provoking or debatable, but I am so glad that Jon Hensley has written a book that deals with a hard topic like sexism.

    Definitely going to give it a try! Thanks for sharing Rashika, and BRILLIANT review <3
    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted…Of Metal and WishesMy Profile

  10. says

    This book was such a hard book for my to personally stomach because of all the cruelty same had to go through. Sexism is a real thing and I loved how this book really brought that message home. I’m currently surrounded by some amazing peers who thankfully don’t make me feel small for being a woman or consider themselves better than me for being men. We all just see each other as humans and as individual people. That being said, It’s so nice to be reminded again of what still goes on in this world.
    I loved Sam and the group of people she had who really beieved she was capable. I had to put this book down several times because I was just so appauled by the horror of what was going on around Sam. the stuff some of the guys said. THE NERVE. Also, I was just so angry at the other girls who were in the military school. They didn’t bust their butt nearly as much as Sam and took the easy way out. All while Sam had to face the challlenges herself. It was so aggravating.
    I definetly loved the romance (although I had issues with the fact that it took a bit too long for it to develop) but wasn’t a fan of the open ending. It ended up reallly annoying me and brought this book down two stars (i know, i’m a terrible person. But I was just really annoyed you know?) I felt like the ending very much refelcted the “we won the battle just not the war” vibe but I felt like more should have been won. *sigh*
    lily recently posted…A Little Something Different: ReviewMy Profile

  11. says

    Baha, I would have said the same thing about wanting to join military school after reading this one. Just liking wanting to join Hogwarts or be in the Hunger Games (wait, what?) xD Haha. Anyways, I’m so glad you liked this one, I also have it and am now super excited to get into it! The open ending though… *eye twitch* especially when it comes to romance… I always prefer a wrapped up, for sure ending. Now I’m a little worried :P Guess I’ll have to see for myself! Great review :3
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  12. says



    I’m not sure if I could call myself a feminist. But I believe in equal rights for men and women. You could say that I hate it when a book degrades a woman. I HATE IT. I think if I were in this book I would be rooting so hard for Sam. Right now, this topic is a bit heated. But its nice to know that the author justified this kind of a situation without making it a drama fest. I wonder if I could find it at my local bookstores now? Haha I want it now. haha
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  13. says

    I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, Rashika, so I’m not surprised you really enjoyed it, too. I’m a huge romance girl and like you I don’t care for the open ending! Especially if I loved the romance as you did here. Lovely review! I have a copy and I’ll have to get to this soon. :)
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  14. says

    I love the premise of this one, so many young and new adult books tend to portray girls and women as precious objects that would break in a strong breeze. It’s about time authors got real and put them in realistic situations and male dominated fields. And I can imagine that it’s as close to realism as we’ll probably see, if not a little confronting for some. I’m looking forward to reading it. Awesome review my little alien, and no running off to military school *wags finger* we’d miss you <3
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  15. says

    I am honestly so excited to get my hands on this one because I keep hearing more and more positive things. Especially when it touches on a subject like sexism, which is very close to my heart, as also a huge feminist, I feel like this one will be a read I will both loathe and love at the same time. I am pleased that this could make such an impact on you. Although very curious about both the redemption of Sam’s family and the very open romance ending… Gah. Likewise I like my romance to be all happily ever after or at least mostly resolved despite it not being realistic, I am just a sucker for sop!
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  16. says

    I have heard such wonderful things about this book and your review makes me want to read it even more!
    Thank you so much for the warnings though, Rashika, cause as a fellow feminist, I’m sure I’d be prone to rages and overwhelming emotions while reading this book, so I’ll keep it in mind!
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  17. says

    Oh wow this sounds really good and i Love it when a book takes on an actual important topic! I don’t think I’ve read many on sexism either. I just finished Lies We Tell Ourselves that was about racism and LGBT and sooo good! I’m in the mood for more books like that I might check this one out, soon. Sam sounds like an incredible character and def love when family is added to the mix! Open ended romance huh? I am intrigued and glad to have been warned! Fab review, honey buns!
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