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.
I picked up Rites of Passage because almost every single blogger I saw reviewing it was giving it not only a positive rating but praise telling readers to pick this up. I am so thankful for all those lovely people because I gave in and not only bought a debut (which I have been trying to avoid since my TBR/shelves are overflowing) but I started it the moment it arrived on my doorstep. I do not regret any of the choices I made because this book is awesome!!
Sam is a straight up badass. I know fully that I would not be able to make it through everything she had to put up with at Denmark Military Academy. She is one of five girls who are going to be DMA’s first class of females. This puts a lot of pressure on but add in being the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel McKenna (who is well known all throughout the Academy) makes everything that much harder for Sam. She struggles and is constantly finding herself the center of unwanted attention but every time she perseveres through. I was constantly telling myself “why aren’t you more BA like Sam!?” or “maybe I should run a mile today since Sam can easily run 13”. Seriously she is just so tough.
The romance was almost perfect for me. There was definitely more than one scene that had me grinning like a fool. Sam is dead set against a relationship because it is the rules that she cannot date plus they are suppose to think of each other as “brothers and sisters”. Because of this the romance wasn’t BAM, it was more quiet attraction that both parties held back on because of said rules. If there was just a smidge more at the end I think I would have been a happy camper. My need for MORE means I hope that there is a chance for a sequel. This book had an ending. It was a very good ending but it is also one of those endings that is just enough unfinished where there could be a sequel. Just give me a novella that takes place during the summer after Sam’s first year, kay?
Something unique to this book was that some of the characters seemed older because they are military disciplined. There were times where I had to remind myself that a character was only 17. Sam is a sophomore but is clumped in with the freshman because she has to go through the rites of passage (hey there book title!) like every new student at DMA. I would forget that she wasn’t getting drilled by a teacher/adult but by a classmate just a year or two older than her.
There is a deeper plot involving a secret society, that in the past has adhered to a great prejudice to a group of people. Basically they are the group that tried to stop blacks and gays from joining DMA and have now come back together to try and prevent females from joining the ranks. They want to keep the academy “pure”, which means white, male and straight. I loved how this was handled and how much more this made me love Sam. Sam is such a strong character and I know there were times my heart clenched and I wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug.
Overall this was a great story with some amazing characters. I am so happy I listened to all the bloggers who were raving about it. The writing was fantastic and cannot wait to pick up Hensley’s sophomore novel!