Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
"Sam McKenna has 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 trivial . . . 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 won't rest until she gives up. 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."- summary from Amazon
HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING!!! And, like Lies We Tell Ourselves from earlier this week, made me so angry at the Neanderthal sexist military guys in this book (and I read those books back-to-back). I would constantly get the urge to punch someone. It's just crazy that anything like this could happen in this day and age, but I know it definitely still does. A lot of archaic thinking is still in some major institutions.
Aside from the anger, this was a wonderful debut book and I loved the character of Sam- extremely strong (both in strength and will), loyal, and fierce. I loved being in her perspective and reading her journey through a semester at the DMA, which also included some romance with her young, hot drill sergeant. I LOVED Drill (you do find out his real name in the book, but I'll leave that for you to find out) and their scenes together were alternately sweet and hot. Hensley knows how to write a fantastic realistic love connection.
The secret society is absolutely crazy and that whole aspect of the book had me on the edge of my seat. I wish more had been done (or more had been written) in regards to the ending, but I do think it was handled realistically, which I guess is how it should be (though I would not be opposed to an unrealistic ending if it meant good completely won out over evil).
Overall, a highly recommended debut that deals with something very different from what we see in YA. I know I've never read a book set at a military academy. I am looking forward to seeing what Hensley does next!
FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.