Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites Of PassageTitle: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy Hensley
Published: December 9th, 2014
Pages: 416
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Military School, Hazing
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed
Rating: Five Stars
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.
Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
Cover Thoughts: This cover was featured in one of my Wondrous Covers Wednesdays features. Basically I adore it. I love how it’s mostly black, but has a pink title. The dog tags are a great touch.
First Line: I’m physically incapable of saying no to a dare-I’ve got the scars and broken bone to prove it.
~First Thoughts~
I love Sam’s attitude. I’m already pretty hooked on this. I can’t wait to see the academy. I’m not sure what I think of Sam’s father yet.
This was one of my most anticipated reads of last year but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to it or not. I’m so happy that I did even though for the majority of it, I was so angry, not because t was bad, because some of the characters were awful people. I loved Rites of Passage, it definitely didn’t let me down. This is a very unique book and I would rank Sam right up there with Katniss in terms of personality and the ability to defend themselves.
What I Loved About Rites of Passage:
~Attention Grabbing~
Rites of Passage was immediately attention grabbing to me. I was drawn into the military school Sam would soon be in and the “rites of passage” she would go through. Between Sam’s own journey to her family to her friends to the secret society, there was so much that kept my attention throughout Rites of Passage. I loved how I never really knew what was going on with Jonathon as he was very hot and cold at times. I didn’t know if he really cared or not about Sam and what was happening to her. Sam’s family life is also interesting, her father isn’t the affectionate type being a colonel and all. There were times I just wish he would have reached out to Sam a bit more. We don’t hear about Sam’s mother too much in Rites of Passage and I wish that she too would’ve helped Sam out a bit. 
The pace in Rites of Passage was fantastic. It was fast enough that i read through it quickly and even though it had it’s slower parts, I was invested in the mysteries of Amos, the society and the overall outcome of Sam.
The star of Rites of Passage, naturally. Sam is a badass character, there’s no way around it. When she gets this final dare from Amos, her now deceased older brother, she doesn’t even hesitate to go through with it. 
“I’m physically incapable of saying no to a dare- I’ve got the scars and broken bone count to prove it.” 
The dare? Military school. 

Cadet Kelly

To say that the military ran through Sam’s veins would be an understatement, her father is a highly respected Lieutenant Colonel.
“Jonathan is the cadet colonel. You can’t be all female around him”
Her brother Jonathan is a cadet colonel and her deceased brother, Amos was a ranger.
Sam’s never been one to skip out on dares so despite her mother urging her to not go through with it, Sam does.
“And it’s not like they’re going to let a female skip out on all the rites of passage. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not meant to be easy.”
I loved Sam’s determination, bravery and overall behavior despite everything going against her. I loved that she didn’t get ran out of the academy like some wanted and she stuck through it. 
~Military School~
As if military school isn’t hard enough, Sam is one of only four girls to be joining Denmark Military Academy for the first time ever. A lot of the guys are against this idea and have no problems expressing so and will do anything to get the girls to quit. Originally Sam thinks there won’t be any huge problem, she’s been training for the academy, but when she learns how much some guys are against the girls, she realizes she’s going to have to try harder than ever. 
I’ll admit I was really interested in the military academy and hazing aspects. I can tell that Hensley really knew what she was writing about when it came to the military talk. I’ve never read a novel involving hazing before. The “rites of passage” that Sam goes through is astounding. No matter what any of the guys say or do to her, she doesn’t quit. Sam’s determined to push through this academy and you can’t go wrong cheering for her to show them all up.
~The Secret Society~
I love, love, love secret societies. I loved trying to figure out who was in this society, what exactly they were doing and why they were so obsessed with getting the girls out. I feel it was a bit confusing at the end though and I didn’t fully understand it. Once Sam finds out about it though, she’s dead set on taking it down.
“I’m bringing down the whole damn Society.
Despite having other girls in the program with her, Sam’s the only one to remain at the academy for one reason or another, whether it was too hard, they didn’t show up or they just gave up. With the secret society going on and others who only want to see Sam gone, she’s wondering who she can trust–if anyone. Of course though, there are a few allies in the midsts. I really wish the other girls would have stuck it out because it would’ve been interesting seeing Sam interact with them more. Maybe things could have changed faster had they all stuck it out, but I don’t blame the other girls for leaving, I wouldn’t have lasted one minute in the academy.
Jax was one of my favorite characters. She’s a hacker and a bit of a computer expert. This of course gave me both Veronica Mars feels and Free To Fall (by Lauren Miller) vibes.
In an all guys academy where girls have only just been admitted, it makes sense there would be a bit of romance. I thought the romance aspect was done really well and I like how that wrapped up in the end. Drill is one of the guys that doesn’t completely hate the girls being at the academy. I loved that about him. I also loved how he treated the new cadets as people.

Cadet Kelly

Oh Amos, my heart breaks. Although I never really read any scenes involving him, I loved Amos. I would have loved for there to be flashbacks involving him with Sam. His death reminded me of one in the musical, Bare: A Pop Opera. That definitely caused a lot of feelings for me.
What I Was Worried About:
I was definitely worried that Rites of Passage wasn’t going to have a good ending. What I mean by a “good” ending is that i was worried I wouldn’t be satisfied with it. I was nervous about it all the way to the last forty pages. Fortunately though, I was satisfied with the ending mostly. 
What I Hated (In A Good Way):
I believe Hensley has created one of my most hated book characters ever whose name is Matthews, at least his last name. This kid is the same age as Sam and he’s determined to make her quit. He’s completely ruthless. There were several times I just had to set Rites of Passage aside and calm myself down so I didn’t scream about Matthews and other characters that were so cruel. Hensley definitely gets credit for making me feel so strongly, even now I think about Matthews and I get furious all over again. 

Cadet Kelly

The thinking of so many guys in this book infuriated me. Their thinking was so backwards and bizarre. I was forever raging over the fact that they dislike having girls at the academy, that they were willing to do practically anything to make them leave.  There were hardcore drills they had to do, punishments for no reason, and violence a few times. 
What I Didn’t Love So Much:
I was still a little confused with the ending, i think a second read of Rites of Passage would definitely clear that up though. I also thought the ending was pretty rushed and wrapped up a bit too neatly.
Rites of Passage was a great novel with realistic characters. The emotions I felt for it were so high, there was anger, there was near tears, and then there were quite a few times I swooned as well. Rites of Passage is one of 2014’s best releases and I understand completely why it was ranked so highly on many “Top Ten YA” lists.
~Final Thoughts~
Rites of Passage will keep you flipping through your pages or swiping at your e-reader to finish this. If you haven’t read Rites of Passage and you’ve been hesitating to do so, I can only urge you to please please read it. It’s different from any other Young Adult book I’ve ever read. The plot is original, the characters are diverse, the pacing is great, and it has at least one character you’ll fall in love with. I rate Rites of Passage five stars.

 ~Recommended For~
  • Fans of Free To Fall by Lauren Miller
    • I thought there were a few similarities between Rites of Passage and Free To Fall by Lauren Miller. The similarities being two sixteen year old girls transferring to a special academy, the academy containing a secret society, both books involving computer hackers and people they may or may not be able to trust. Rites of Passage is definitely it’s own book though.
  • Fans of awesome heroines
  • Off-Beat/Original Novels
  • Realistic Fiction

~Memorable Quotes~
“If it were up to me, I’d be next to you twenty-four/seven.”
“We’d been so close, but he’d held his secret even closer.”

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

6 responses to “Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

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