Published by HarperTeen on September 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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 wouldn’t survive one day at military school. Remember that one scene in Clueless where nobody wants to participate in gym class? Well, that’s my attitude. Plus I don’t like rules all that much.
~ The book opens with Sam on her way to Denmark Military Academy to be part of their first ever girls class. You just know things are going to be rough for these girls.
~ Even before she gets there, Sam hears the radio djs complaining about her admittance, because it seems girls will somehow ruin the fine military academy of DMA. And she (and I assume the other 4 brave girls who got accepted) has already had hate mail and email about her going to school there.
~ Sam is at DMA because of her brother’s dare, and she’s following through even though Amos is dead.
~ Sam has so much confidence and nerve- it’s kind of inspiring!
~ I don’t know why, but I assumed Amos died in combat- but he committed suicide. So now the family is completely broken, and other brother Jonathan won’t speak to Sam because he doesn’t want her at his school. It’s heartbreaking to read about a family so torn apart when they really all need each other so much.
~ Until they’re recognized as cadets, new students are called Worms. Charming.
~ Uh, screw prison, let’s send some low crime offenders to military school- no talking at dinner, walking in the gutters, no tv, no phone, plus physical and educational lessons to deal with? I think that would work far more as a deterrent. Just saying.
~ Sam’s famous dad gets her negative attention, even more than her girly parts (because girls ruin everything for boys with their girl cooties and emotions and deep thoughts and all).
~ There were supposed to be 5 girls total in Sam’s year, but only she and three other girls show up.
~ Uh oh, Drill Sergeant Stamm is quite the hottie distraction for Sam. Damn those hormones! But really, even though Sam is super dedicated to doing well, she’s human. And I’m kind of crushing on him too.
~ I love all the details of military school, even the ones I hate, like making the Worms talk in 3rd person in order to further break them down. But it’s something that I understand, coming from a bit of a military family. You have to be able to take orders instantly, to react a certain way, because in battle a mistake can cost lives. And I guess military school is just a step below boot camp.
~ In order to deal with the dating dilemma of having girls and boys at one school, it’s been decided that new cadets will not date at all their first year- at least no one at DMA and especially not any upper class man. Which makes Drill Sergeant Stamm deliciously off limits. Sigh.
~ Part of her first year requires each company to compete in an obstacle course, but Sam has some ptsd when it comes to the ropes, because it reminds her of finding Amos.
~ At many points throughout the book you will be tempted to punch Corporal Matthews in his sexist, snobdouche face. You may want to buy a punching bag now before you buy the book.
~ Every time I start to think that things for Sam and the other female recruits are just as bad as they can be, something worse happens to make me realize that my imagination for cruelty is not as wide as I previously thought it was. I already knew I wasn’t strong enough physically for military school, but I am definitely not mentally strong enough to face what Sam and the other girls are going through.
~ Wow, people drop like flies out of military academy, including one of the 4 girls.
~ Hell Week is aptly named. I’m feeling exhausted for these Worms. I want to take a nap just reading what they have to endure!
~ Seriously, at times it does feel like Sam’s back in the 1950’s with the way that Matthews not only goes after her, but is allowed to continue harassing her.
~ Wait, a secret Society at military school? Shiz just keeps getting worse and worse.
~ Just a little thought that made me giggle, if Sam marries Stamm, then she’ll be Sam Stamm. 😉
~ Harry Potter reference for the win! And it’s a super appropriate one. And later, a Hitler and Voldemort reference, which is beyond fitting.
~ A character who will not be mentioned by name betrays and disappoints me, er, I mean Sam, betrays and disappoints Sam. Actually, a couple of characters do. No, I am not too emotionally involved with this book! Okay, yes I am. I am in deep, but I don’t want to be rescued, even if it means that I’m going to have nightmares about blood wings and ice balls.
~ This is an intense read. If you’re expecting a book version of Hillary Duff’s movie Cadet Kelly, then this is not the book for you. It’s a lot closer to Hillary Swank’s Boys Don’t Cry with it’s brutality. That’s not to deter you from reading this book, in fact Rites of Passage is one of my favorite reads so far of 2014, but it is not warm and fuzzy. Well, except Drill Sergeant Stamm and his ability to make me feel warm and fuzzy. I’m a sucker for forbidden romances though.
Sam McKenna- our military school cadet heroine. Will take any dare, so she’s probably fun at parties. 🙂
Lieutenant Colonel McKenna- Sam’s big time military father. But his wife calls him Topher.
Amos McKenna- Sam’s older brother, now deceased.
Mom McKenna- into pills to numb the pain of losing her son. Hates the military. A lot.
Jonathan McKenna- older brother to Sam and cadet colonel at DMA.
Reverend Cook- Sam’s faculty adviser.
Cadet Evers- he of the wandering eyes. Love how Sam puts him in his place.
Cadet Lyons- Jonathan’s second in command.
Corporal Matthews- Sam’s sexist squad leader, signals Sam out because of her famous dad.
Drill Sergeant Stamm- Meow. Tough, attractive and not sexist. Treats all Worms the same, and get’s Sam’s heart racing. Referred to as just Drill for most of the book.
Cadet Quinn- Sam’s roommate and the girl she’s secretly dubbed the “crier”. Hey, Sam, tears are okay, boys cry too!
Cadet Kelly- aka Freckles- one of the few boys in her squad that doesn’t seem to hate the fact that the DMA allows girls.
Cadet Cross- model pretty, which makes Sam write her off at first, but she’s got some hidden steel in her spine.
Cader Short- tough and athletic, she’s the only other girl that Sam thinks will survive the year with her.
Jax- mystery girl, and enigma wrapped inside of another enigma- at least, at first. 🙂
Huffman- Stamm’s friend, one of the few chubby upper classman, does just enough to pass PT.
Tim- lives in town, served in the Army with Amos.
So much of the book is intense, and Sam is harassed 90% of the time, but my favorite moment, the scene where I could breathe the most, was Sam’s Thanksgiving pie with a certain military academy hottie. 😉
Also, the phone call home that Sam makes after eating the pie, and the news she gets. I did not see that coming.
Stop the Clock:
I couldn’t put this book down once I really started. It’s a page turner, if only because you just have to know how, and if, Sam will survive her first year at military academy. I have no idea if they’ll be sequels, and it works extremely well as a stand alone, but I for one will be a bit sad if I don’t read further adventures of most of these characters. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, because it’s just so good. This is the kind of YA book that you can feel comfortable giving to your non-YA reading friends.
Rites of Passage gets a Midnight Book rating of: