Review ~ Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Series: N/A
Genre: YA Contemporary 
Page Length:  416 Pages
Publication Date: September 19th, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Finished copy via library

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 went into this book hoping to enjoy it after all the rave reviews I had seen. I didn't expect to be blown away by this truly fantastic plot and feel so empowered by the words and in tune with the theme and ideas. Yet it happened. Hensley reminds me why writers write: to explain their views and persuade readers. She reminds me how powerful a tool writing can be and how much it can convey and incite in a reader. 

The characters in this book are so dynamic and inspiring. They were so descriptive and realistic, I felt strongly about each and every one of them. Sam was an incredible and admirable main character. She's so strong and willful and passionate and determined. Drill was so sweet and thoughtful and smart. I loved him. Kelly, Bekah, and Matthews were great side characters. I felt they all brought the story to a whole and were just as developed as the main character. 

The pacing was perfect. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel. It wasn't too predictable. I couldn't stop reading! I attempted to read this book throughout November for a read-along. Instead I ended up finishing it in nearly three days. Some of the things that happen in this book are brutal. There are some scenes where I literally gasped out loud or stared dumb-founded at the page. Hensley holds nothing back and I admire that. 

What I really loved about this book was the themes. Hensley had such a classy touch to it so the themes weren't thinly veiled, it was worked into the story and it made sense. She discussed topics that I usually avoided or didn't think of much like the treatment of women in the military and the women's stereotypes and women's inequality in general. She really made me think and brought out all the emotional responses to certain scenarios. She made me think which is the sign of a great writer.

This was a fantastic YA debut that was only slightly damaged by the ending. It was not what I wanted! I'd highly recommend this book to anyone, and yes. I'm going to push this book on EVERYONE.


  1. Good to know you liked this, Rachel! Been seeing this book around but it didn't really appeal to me. Maybe I'll give it a try. Lovely review! :)

  2. so many love for this book!! I love great characters and great pacing. I'm really hoping to get my hands on this soon! Great review! :)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

  3. I hear many amazing things about this book! I really like books that are kind of addictive and you end reading in a few days, but the story in this one just doesn't appeal to me at all.

  4. Wow, I've heard ao many fantastic things about this novel! I really like that it deals with feminist issues, especially the women in the military one, because we don't really focus on that much. Great review Rachel, I'll be sure to pick this one up from my library soon!

  5. Coincidentally, I just picked up this book and was reading it last night. Love how "true to life" it seems. Very realistic & I'm already a mess over this whole older brother Amos last dare/promise thing. Great review, Rachel! Is this a review from China? hahaha.

  6. One of my all time favorite books ever, and I was absolutely not expecting it! Contemporaries aren't always my favorite, but I figured I would give this a shot. And it blew me away. I CANNOT wait for another book in this series, or just another book by this amazingly talented writer!

  7. I have this one in the wish list and I'm hoping to add it to the TBR pile once I can allow myself to buy more books given my book buying ban till I've moved to my apartment!

  8. I'm happy you loved this book, because I'm definitely planning to read it once the paperback comes out. I've only heard good things!

  9. YES! LOVED this book so much! The characters especially <3 FANTASTIC REVIEW :3

  10. I really LOVED this book as well, YES <3 I agree about the ending though, it annoyed the crap out of me when they decided to add a sequel to a perfectly good book. Fantastic review Rachel!
    <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

  11. I heard the audiobook of this one and looooved it! So good! My daughter was being nosy and listening to most of it with me (I don't always put on my earphones if it's a YA) and she was like 'don't those boys know that girls can do anything they can?' I gave her a high five :)
    I want to read her next book so bad!

  12. I loved this book SO MUCH. And I think you should join the ever-growing list of people who are willing to beg Joy Hensley for a sequel ;) Great review I just want to gush about this book now! Such a favorite!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  13. I'm so glad you loved this one! I read tons of mixed reviews on this one before reading it, so I pretty much went into it blind. Nevertheless, the story blew me away, and I was literally nose-to-nose with the book while reading it! SO GOOD. The ending really gets on my nerves though - I need closure! Love your review :D

  14. A friend of mine gave me this book for Christmas and I still have to read it! :'(
    I'll try to pick it up soon, I just know I'm gonna love it! :D


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