Review: Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley

Rites of PassageRites of Passage by Joy Hensley
Published by: HarperTeen on September 9, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Military
Pages: 416
Source: Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★½

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.

Rites of Passage has me a bit torn. There were definitely pros and cons with this book.

Things I Liked

For the most part, I LOVED Sam as a character. That girl is tough as nails! She gets an insane amount of shit thrown at her at the Denmark Military Academy, but she never backs down. There were tons of times when I wish she’d stand up for herself more, but that’s just not military style, so I understand why she didn’t. If I were her, I probably would have punched everyone in the face 5 times instead of standing there and taking their shit.

The whole military aspect of this book was REALLY interesting. I’m so not a military person and I know very little about it. But reading about a hardcore military academy was pretty cool. This may seem weird, but Rites of Passage gave me the strongest urge to go to the gym. I read all about Sam running 5Ks, doing 5 million push ups, running through obstacle courses, etc. I wanted to jump up and get in on that! …I’m sure I’ll feel differently by tomorrow.

However, the shit the recruits got was insane. It was crazy to see how anti-women some of those guys were. What fucking century are we in? Sam beats half the guys in the training exercises, but the guys don’t get shit for it—Sam does.. just because she’s a girl. So even though she rocks, she’s “not cut out for this”. Whaaaa??

What I Didn’t Like

This book was long—416 pages. But the thing is, I don’t feel like it needed to be that long. There were a few times where the book felt slow. There was a ton of build up, but then nothing was happening, or there would be long periods where the plot felt like it was stalling. I think it could have been cut down.

I didn’t hate the romance, but I feel like it wasn’t developed well. At the beginning of the book, Sam actually has a half romance with a different guy.. this “half romance” went on for so long that I actually had to go and reread the synopsis, because I remembered it saying she falls for her drill sergeant, but this “half romance” was with someone else… It just had me confused. Then when the romance with the drill sergeant finally came into play in the second half, I LIKED it, but I feel like it never came off the ground. It wasn’t the focus of the story so I guess it wasn’t intended to be super heavy/detailed, but it still felt really awkwardly half developed (especially by the end).

And finally: the ending. Rites of Passage had A TON of build up. The hazing gets more and more violent and brutal.. then I feel like the end was really abrupt and not super satisfying. Without spoiling it, the ending was sort of like: the war isn’t over, but we’ve won the battle.. but actually, even that’s generous. It’s more like: the war isn’t over, but the bad guys don’t feel like taking bad PR so they’re letting us win this one battle. I was hoping for a lot more. View Spoiler »


I enjoyed a lot of Rites of Passage. It was interesting and felt different from other YA books just because of how military-heavy it was. Even other military books I’ve read have nothing on this one. Rites of Passage is more like: a day in the life of recruit. It’s very cool! If only the romance and ending were a bit better, then thiss could have easily been a 4.5 star book!

The Verdict


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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I think you should give Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn a try. It sounds a little like this, except less on the hazing side and more on the… well, Halo side. It’s a movie, but it’s really good, and I think you’d like it based off what I get off this review.

    Sierra recently posted: That Whole School Thing
  2. I’m less than halfway done with this one right now and I’m feeling the same way. Everyone around the blogosphere completely loved this book but I’m not sold yet. I have a feeling because the hazing is going to get worse (and I almost can’t bear it right now) I’m going to end up quitting this book and googling how it ends lol. I’m not one to DNF at all (I’ve only done it with one book) but the sexism is really killing me. I know that’s an important part of the book and understanding their attitudes, but I just can’t listen to it.

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