BookPage Teen Top Pick, April 2016
In the town of Palermo Heights, the cheerleading squad is the high school’s most successful team. Cheer captain Hermione Winters is determined to fill her senior year with more victories. She’s hard at work at preseason training camp when the unthinkable happens: She wakes up in a hospital to learn that she was drugged and raped, and soon finds out she was also impregnated. With her memory blank and the evidence compromised, there is little hope of finding Hermione’s attacker.
While some rape narratives might focus on lurid details, the whodunit aspect and the protagonist’s downward spiral, E.K. Johnston’s latest novel works on more nuanced ground. Hermione is surrounded by a great support system, which allows her to keep cheering, stay in school and stand strong. Her best friend, Polly, is a case study in how to lend support to someone who has suffered an assault. But there are small changes to confront as well. Hermione feels a strange mix of pride and resentment as she watches friends find their own strength because of her circumstances, and she navigates fear and uncertainty as her memories begin to resurface. Johnston avoids unrealistic clichés by exploring Hermione’s emotions in vivid detail.
It may be pointed out that Hermione is too perfect a victim, one whose narrative undermines more complicated assault scenarios. However, Johnston’s carefully crafted novel makes this simplicity work, thanks to its focus on how strongly Hermione advocates for herself after the fact. Should a young reader ever need guidance following an assault, she could do much worse than to emulate Hermione Winters.