Author: Joy N. Hensley
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Physical Copy
Published: September 19th, 2014 by Harper Teen
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 went into this book hoping to enjoy it after all the rave reviews I had seen. I didn't expect to be blown away by this truly fantastic plot and feel so empowered by the words and in tune with the theme and ideas. Yet it happened. Hensley reminds me why writers write: to explain their views and persuade readers. She reminds me how powerful a tool writing can be and how much it can convey and incite in a reader.
The characters in this book are so dynamic and inspiring. They were so descriptive and realistic, I felt strongly about each and every one of them. Sam was an incredible and admirable main character. She's so strong and willful and passionate and determined. Drill was so sweet and thoughtful and smart. I loved him. Kelly, Bekah, and Matthews were great side characters. I felt they all brought the story to a whole and were just as developed as the main character.
The pacing was perfect. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel. It wasn't too predictable. I couldn't stop reading! I attempted to read this book throughout November for a read-along. Instead I ended up finishing it in nearly three days. Some of the things that happen in this book are brutal. There are some scenes where I literally gasped out loud or stared dumb-founded at the page. Hensley holds nothing back and I admire that.
What I really loved about this book was the themes. Hensley had such a classy touch to it so the themes weren't thinly veiled, it was worked into the story and it made sense. She discussed topics that I usually avoided or didn't think of much like the treatment of women in the military and the women's stereotypes and women's inequality in general. She really made me think and brought out all the emotional responses to certain scenarios. She made me think which is the sign of a great writer.
This was a fantastic YA debut that was only slightly damaged by the ending. It was not what I wanted! I'd highly recommend this book to anyone, and yes. I'm going to push this book on EVERYONE.