There were a ton of reviews for this book when it first came out, and based on those reviews, I separated the audience into two people: those who loved the book, and those who hated it. It seemed to me that there was no in-between, not really, and with my review, I'll have to say the same. I, to put it simply, loved this book. To be sure, there was a certain part of this book (hint: THE END) that made me want to kick something, but besides that, I found almost no fault with this book.
Sam is a very strong heroine, both psychically and mentally, and her point of view was a pleasure to read from. She was hard as nails, "took it like a man", and didn't let anything get under her skin. I thought it was a bit unhealthy how she refused to talk about her brother, the one that killed himself, but I can understand where she was coming from. Besides, it's not like anyone at the biased academy was much help, her elder and very much alive brother included. In my opinion, she didn't need much character development in the novel, as she was a pretty solid character since the very beginning. However, I loved how though she started the whole military academy thing as a dare, by the end, she is fighting hard and risking her life not for the dare - the wrong reason - but to set a precedent that will allow other girls in the future to attend the academy as well - the right reason.
I'm usually not big on contemporaries, but this one caught my interest from almost the very beginning. You'd think that a book about a military academy would be boring, but this one surprised me in the best way possible. Not only is the military academy literal hell, but all the double-crossers and the pure evil character really add a whole new spin to things. And, as you probably already guessed, the intense relationship between Sam and her drill sergeant was...wow. Great stuff. Which brings me to my next complaint.
Besides the ending, which I shall get to later, I did think that the plot was a bit unrealistic, which is only a problem because this book is a contemporary novel, otherwise known as realistic fiction. The girl going to an all boys military school and the upheaval it caused? Sure, it was a bit nineteenth century, but I'm sure it could happen. However, the fact that people were actually hurting and trying to kill the girls in an attempt to maintain the all-boys status? And the whole, crazy reason behind it? Yeah, not buying it. Don't get me wrong, it made for an amazing story, but I definitely wouldn't classify this as realistic fiction.
Okay, so the ending? It literally makes no sense. Sure, the whole anticlimactic thing was great, but what I'm talking about is the very end, as in the last few pages. There is this one decision made that basically undos what the rest of the pages were building up, and I was not okay with that. I still refuse to accept that as the ending of the novel. What's worse is that as far as I know, there is no sequel to this novel, and it makes me die a little bit inside every time I realize that. The book left me completely happy, and then absolutely astounded, all within about three pages. I suppose I should give the author creds for that, but I'm still hung up over the disastrous ending.
Even with that unusual ending, I would recommend all contemporary fans to give Rites of Passage a try. It's not your usual coming-of-age story, but instead one about companionship and family - with an extra large dose of action-packed. I doubt you'll be seeing a book like this anytime soon, so if anything about it, anything at all, catches your interest, please do yourself a favor and take a chance on it.
Book Synopsis: 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.