Rites Of Passage by Joy N. Hensley | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Rites Of Passage by Joy N. Hensley | Book ReviewRites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Published by Harper Collins on 2014-09-09
Genres: Bullying, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

In this fast-paced, high-stakes debut novel, sixteen-year-old Sam McKenna discovers that becoming one of the first girls to attend a revered military academy means living with a target on her back. As Sam struggles to prove herself, she learns that a decades-old secret society is alive and active . . . and determined to force her out. Fans of Simone Elkeles and Trish Doller will love Rites of Passage’s perfect blend of sizzling romance and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Before reading Rites Of Passage by Joy N. Hensley, I had the book in a pile in front of other books in my bookcase. I had intended to read the book, but probably when the snow is falling and under a blanket. These plans completely changed when Jamie over at the Perpetual Page Turner texted me and said READ RITES OF PASSAGE. Me being me, I said ‘OKAY but I have to get through 3 other books first.’ When a friend texts you to read a book and it’s a friend who actually has good taste in books, you read the book. Or, at least I do, because I don’t want to spend time reading bullshit books, I want to spend time reading books that are AMAZING. Readers, Rites Of Passage was amazing. I have not had such a visceral reaction to a book since like 10 books back. (I read a lot and thankfully some great books, so I can’t make the claim that I never have visceral reactions UNTIL this book because that would be a lie)

Sam McKenna is one badass mofo so, she never ever turns down a dare. This dare that she’s about to complete comes from her now deceased brother, Amos, and that is to attend and be among the first class of female recruits at the previously all-male Denmark Military Academy. Sam, who is all brass balls, goes for the dare. Unfortunately, a lot of the cadets at the academy do not want her there and will do anything to push her out. Sam, also called Mac, soldiers on because she was raised in a military family and McKennas do not give up or give in. While she’s giving it her best, she discovers that the need to drive her out of the academy runs much deeper than some sexist, boys club cadets but runs all the way to a secret society that will do anything to force her out. It’s going to take sheer will and determination to keep Sam in DMA.

Mac is totally my type of main character. She’s disciplined, she has little patience for people who are not. She is determined and never ever gives up. She is an actual trailblazer and I love that about her. I loved that Mac was so rigid about following the rules and doing all that she could to be a perfect recruit, even though everyone wants her to fail. I love that she is irritated with her fellow female recruits when they break the rules — because I would have that exact same reaction. I just really identified with how Hensley wrote Sam with such fierce determination. Sam is totally worthy of being main character of Rites Of Passage.

Now, the pink color on the word “passage” on the front cover might signal romance to you as does the back cover where it talks about McKenna wanting an off limits drill sergeant. I am here to say that yes, there’s some romance and some swoons in Rites Of Passage. HOWEVER, do not expect it to be like Simone Elkeles swoons. Sure, the romance is forbidden and McKenna can’t act on her feelings. HOWEVER, there’s like three kiss scenes in the whole book. You can still feel heat the entire time between Sam and Drill Sergeant Stamm. It’s very much one of those let’s ship this because they are perfect together and who does not like someone with a commanding presence? For serious. I loved Mac’s interactions with Drill, but I just sort of wish there was more. Not that the lack of romance and making out prevents me from giving this book a full five stars, because it does not and because I have all these feelings arising from other things.

One thing that I posted on my goodreads status while reading Rites Of Passage was FUCK THE PATRIARCHY. Yes, you guys, I totally took one women’s studies class in college and am now an expert given that I am a woman and I have taken a class (actually the real expert is Allison with her masters in the subject), so I can totally run around yelling things like down with patriarchy. THIS BOOK. It made me grip it so hard in anger and made me want to go all feminist hulk smash. There are so many scenes where the males that surround McKenna want to preserve their male privilege and want to bully Mac out of the school. They want Sam to quite so they rely on the tools of sexism and patriarchy to do so. They blame Sam for being a weak female. They comment on her sexuality. They act as though males are superior and therefore more deserving of the DMA than females. Yet, Sam refuses to give up because she knows that if she can get through it, then she has paved the way for other females and that those who come after her will have easier roads. You guys. I loved this. I loved this kind of nod to feminism, or at least that’s what I perceived because this whole book is about a girl who experiences sexism in a predominantly male societal structure. So yes, that is so awesome. Not the sexism, but the look at feminism.

I just really LOVED Rites Of Passage to the point where I literally stayed up past my bedtime to read it. I mean, I work so I actually do have a bedtime so that I can come in and do my job. But, ugh, this book had me in a grip and a rage and when I am pissed off, trust I refuse to do anything else aside from stew in my righteous indignation. AND INDIGNATION WAS APLENTY with this book. I loved that feeling. I loved this book. I loved this writing. I can guarantee all of you that I will read anything Joy N. Hensley comes out with because I was so utterly impressed with Rites Of Passage. I for serious cannot recommend this book enough.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I am soooooo freaking excited to read this book. All of my friends who have read it have loved it. And your review has me even more amped up! I so enjoyed reading your review. “FUCK THE PATRIARCHY!” LOL!

  2. This review put this book back on my radar ! I noticed the audiobook is done by one of my favorite narrators Kristina Hvam, so I may use an audiobook credit on it.

  3. It has been awhile since I read a review so overwhelmingly positive and inspiring. I’ve already added this one to the wishlist!

  4. Dang, I need to bump this one up the TBR! It sounds really powerful and Sam sounds like my kind of MC! But I am also prepared for this book to infuriate me. Hopefully no feminist hulk smashes ensue 😉

  5. Yes, yes, yes! I felt like fist pumping the entire time I read your review! Honestly, I was so very surprised by how much I wound up loving Rites of Passage. It’s gritty, it’s scary, it’s authentic, it’s cool – and I loved all of the elements in it. Hensley definitely wrote something special with this story, and I think she did a really, really great job!