Rites of Passage
Published: Sept. 2014
From page 1, I was so into this book. Sam McKenna is part of a handful of girls starting at the all-male military academy, the very first group of girls to do so. Her motivation is being from a military-bred family, and a promise--more like a dare--from her older brother to make it through the rigorous training at the Denmark Military Academy. Cementing the dare further, is this older brother committed suicide, so she's determined to live up to their family legacy.
Sam and the other female recruits are threatened, coerced, and belittled by their student superiors, many of whom believe girls have no place at their academy. At every turn, Sam is determined to stick it out and not give up. Being in her head as she resolutely puts up with constant verbal and physical abuse is heartbreaking. Sam finds a few allies, but who she can trust is a constant game. When she uncovers inklings of a secret society, she understands that the drive to keep the academy "traditional" runs even deeper.
This is one of those books that from the first page you know who the character is and what she wants. The military aspects are so tightly wound into the story and character, it makes for a submersive experience. Never in a million years would I want to add boot camp to my high school experience, but Sam's determination is inspiring. Plus, the deeper look at questioning gender and politics comes out organically. A highly recommended read from this debut author!