Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Published: September 9, 2014
Series: (Unknown but possibly)
Goodreads 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 don't think the title, cover, or synopsis makes the story justice, whatsoever. I would've easily passed up on this. The depth, tension, and strength of this book doesn't come across in the summary. The mention of "a dare" and "dating" made this sound like another contemporary novel with a female protagonist in an unfavorable situation, crushing on someone off-limits.
Nothing prepared me for the intense, captivating, enthralling ride. I read it in one sitting until the wee hours of the morning, wide awake despite exhaustion prior to turning that first page. And I was exhausted when I finished, in a really good way. The happy, pumped sort of exhaustion.
This is a military book and I loved the crap out of it.
Sam is one of the first female students ever at the military academy, and the reality is harsh. Really harsh. There are continuous reasons to turn the page as fast as you can and root for her. You'll get attached to characters. You'll learn a whole lot.
And maybe (if you're in that state of mind) you'll even, sort of, not really, definitely not (wouldn't survive a day) wish you were there because you'd want to meet that hopelessly crush-worthy guy.
Sam is a force of determination, bravery, and courage. I sat on needles for her through many parts and I'm stunned how a character can make me so insanely, inexplicably proud. I admire her to no end.
There wasn't one uncertain character. Everyone had their own impact, their own place, their own voice. The character were well-written and memorable. Even the characters you despised you enjoyed reading about, because they were believable.
I especially appreciated the raw, shaky friendship between Sam and the girls, and Sam's authentic relationship with the boys. Kelly, Drill, Rev, Jonathan, Amos, Huff, and more... love 'em guys.
A thank you to Hensley for writing this fantastic book.
My one and only question mark, to those who've read the book, I didn't quite understand why Sam was the chosen victim. Why her specifically from day one? Why were they hardest on her even before she'd proven to be "an issue"?