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I Belong

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites of PassageTitle: Rites of Passage

Author: Joy N. Hensley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: September 9, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062295195 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062295194 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Bridget


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.

Quick & Dirty: Inspirational story that I couldn’t put down. With its amazing characters, adorable romance, and heart wrenching emotion this is one of the best books I have read all year.

Opening Sentence: I’M PHYSICALLY INCAPABLE OF SAYING NO TO A DARE—I’VE got the scars and broken bone count to prove it.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Sam McKenna has decided to join the first ever group of girls to attend the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. Until this year the school has only allowed boys into the school, but Sam’s older brother dared her to go. Sam has never been good at turning down a dare and this one is even more important since it was the last one her brother gave her before he died.

Sam grew up in a military family so she knows what is expected of her physically but she never planned on everything else. First off, any kind of relationship with any of the other students is completely prohibited which Sam is totally fine with until she starts falling for her drill sergeant. She knew that there were going to be other students that wouldn’t want her to succeed, but she had no idea what lengths they would go to make her leave. Sam would do anything to prove that she has what it takes, but how much can she handle before she breaks?

Sam is one of those girls you can’t help but admire and respect. She has taken on a huge task and it amazed me how well she handled everything that was thrown at her. She is tough as nail and proves time and time again that she is just as good as any of the boys. But she also has some very girly moments that helped remind me that she is very much a teenage girl. From the moment I met her I was instantly rooting for her, but that doesn’t mean that she was a perfect. She had some flaws, especially when it comes to asking others for help and she is extremely stubborn. I loved being inside her head and I think she a very inspirational character.

Thinking about Drill makes me melt inside. He is the epitome of what I think a hot army man should be. Not only does he have an amazing body and rugged good looks, he also is a great man with a big heart. He really takes to heart that your Company is your family and I loved he treated the girls like they belonged just as much as anyone else. He is super protective of all of his recruits, including the girls, but he doesn’t baby them either. He pushes them to be the best because he actually believes that they can be the best. If someone is struggling he takes time out of his busy schedule to help which just goes to prove how amazing he is. I could seriously go on and on about how wonderful he is, so I am going to stop. But if you can’t already tell, I am madly in love with Drill and he has become one of my favorite book boys ever!

I have to designate part of this review to the fantastic romance. The thing I loved most about Sam and Drill’s relationship is that it isn’t based just off of physical attraction. Initially it started as a deep respect and admiration for each other. Eventually it turned into something more, but this is honestly the best way to start a long lasting relationship with anyone.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t have amazing chemistry because trust me, there are some pretty intense moments between them where the sexual tension is running sky high!!!  The development was done perfectly and they have become one of my all time favorite couples!

Rites of Passage is an inspirational story that tugs at your heart strings, but it is also extremely entertaining. You have adorable romance, crazy drama, and a few suspenseful moments as well. I will admit that it did take me a little bit to get into the story, but once I was hooked I couldn’t put it down. The other thing that was so great is that I have personally never read a YA book that has taken place at a military school and it really worked for me. I love that Hensley tackled a bunch of sensitive subjects and implemented them into such a wonderful story. I feel like everyone can find something to connect with in the story and that is really rare. Whether it be that you are a minority, or a different race, or a girl trying to do something only boys do, it doesn’t matter, if you are willing to put in the work you can make any of your dreams come true. Hensley’s writing is phenomenal and I can’t believe this is her debut novel. I can personally say that she has a fan for life in me and I will gladly read anything else she writes. While the ending of this was very satisfying there is a possibility that there may be more which I really hope there is. If you are looking for a fun, clean contemporary romance this is a must read for you!

Notable Scene:

“Alpha, lower your left hand onto the hand of the recruit buddy to your left. Lean your shoulder into him. Let him support you.”

And just like that, Drill is there, a rock to lean against. I lean into his shoulder, easing some of the pain. I support Nix to my right, his body heavy on my shoulder. We all shake, we all sweat, including

Drill, who did every exercise with us tonight.

“Now listen to the words of the song. You are Alpha. You eat together, breathe together. You live together and you die together. Never forget that. Feel the weight of your recruit buddy. Know that you are holding him up. Feel the weakness in your own muscles. Know that you would not still be up if your recruit buddy wasn’t helping you. This year is all about you becoming a unit. You will ‘all go down together!’” His words echo the chorus of the song.

My eyes sting, and Nix, who never cries, no matter how bad the smoke shows get, sniffles to my right. I’m not alone in this moment and Drill is fully responsible.

“Thank you,” I whisper as the music fades.

He leans closer to me. “You belong here. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

FTC Advisory:  HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Rites of Passage.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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