I couldn't be more excited today to welcome author Joy Hensley to the blog to answer a few questions about her debut YA novel, Rites of Passage. As you guys already know, this book is one that made me rage and cry and want to scream at the top of my lungs at the unfairness of it all, but I loved every single second of it. Protagonist Sam proved herself to be stronger than those around her mentally when she simply couldn't be so physically, and I may or may not have hugged the book to my chest and imagined she might take some comfort from it. I think it's fairly obvious from my gushing this week and last that Rites of Passage has my highest recommendation, so I hope everyone picks up a copy next Tuesday when it releases!
Like Sam, you ended up at a military school on a dare. Can you tell us what you dared the other person to do in return?
Man, I wish I had some epic dare to give back, like swimming with sharks with fish strapped to your body or something like that. The truth is, I don’t think there was a return dare. I was struggling. I hated college, wanted to join the military, and my friend said, “Hey, I’ll give you $25 bucks if you last a year at military school.” Here’s a not-so-secret secret: I survived the year, but never got my $25. Believe me, this friend has never lived this down!
It’s her late brother’s final dare that has Sam enrolling at Denmark Military Academy. If Amos were alive to see her complete it, what gauntlet might Sam have thrown down for him next?
Oh, man, you’re throwing out the tough questions today! You know, their dares are such a part of them that at this point it would have to be something huge. And, it couldn’t be “Run a tough mudder,” because, you know, these guys are tough. I’d like to think Sam would make Amos be in a play or something—something that would totally put him outside his comfort zone and annoy the heck out of their dad at the same time!
The cruelty Sam endures at the hands of her superiors and her classmates is the type that had me wanting to punch the cover of the book in the hopes that a certain character or two might feel my knuckles where it would hurt them most. What was the last book that had you so emotionally involved you were ready to battle an inanimate object on a character’s behalf?
Wow! That’s awesome. I mean, I hope you don’t hurt yourselves punching things because of my book, but it would be kind of an awesome story to tell. As far as your question goes, I’ve got two—I hope that’s okay. I read a ton of YA, too, so these are both YA books, however, they are definitely adult books, too. No one I’ve recommended these books to has said they are anything other than life-changing, kids and adults alike.
First, there’s STOLEN, by Lucy Christopher. It’s written in letter form from a girl who was kidnapped to the guy who kidnapped her. She’s taken to the Australian Outback and held captive. It is so haunting and beautiful and OMG THE END I WANTED TO KILL EVERYONE AND THROW THE BOOK OUT THE WINDOW AND QUESTION MY WHOLE LIFE PURPOSE. I actually did have a student who threw the book across the room so hard that she broke a window and was grounded for it.
Second, WINGER, by Andrew Smith, without a doubt. That book…I just can’t even explain it. I’m a teacher (or was, this will be my first year out of the classroom in nine years) and I finished WINGER in the morning right before class. I was so upset I started crying. The bell rang, the students came in, and I was SOBBING at my desk because I so wanted to “fix” the book. The students just stared at me—they’d never seen anyone cry over a book before. While sniffling, I picked up the book and put it on one of my students’ desks. I said, “READ THIS. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!” Then I cried for ten more minutes while the kids just stared at me. I was one weird teacher, let me tell you!
Sam is unbelievably strong mentally and emotionally, determined to make it through the entire year at the DMA. What’s one quality of her character you too possess or one quality you wish you possessed?
Man, I wish I had Sam’s strength. I think part of the fun I had writing her was that I made her how I wish I had been at military school. I was more like her roommate (which is really embarrassing to say). I can look back now and tell you the million things I wish I’d done differently or tried harder at during my year in the Corps. Sam gave me the chance to do it over and kick ass!
Rites of Passage is written from Sam’s point of view, so we don’t get to spend any time in her drill sergeant’s head. If Drill were asked to describe the Sam of day one at DMA in three words, what words would he use? The Sam at the end of the book?
Man, these are hard questions. I’ve been away from Drill so long, I’m going to have to try and channel him. Let’s see….He’d probably say the Sam of day one is eager to prove herself. He sees a glimpse of his sister in her and he’s intrigued. The Sam at the end of the book? Faithful and without a doubt one of the strongest females he knows. He knows she’s destined for great things at the DMA and beyond.
Just for fun, let’s say Rites of Passage is now a paranormal novel. What supernatural gift or ability might Sam choose to help her get through the hazing?
Ha! Um, she’s pretty strong, so she wouldn’t need strength or speed or anything like that. It would have made it easier if she could have some sort of supernatural ability that helped her be likeable to anyone. Kind of like a chameleon—she would appear like the perfect person to anyone and everyone, no matter that she’s a girl there.
We’re left with things wrapped up pretty nicely, but there’s definitely room for more (please let there be more!). Looking forward to her second year, what would Sam say are her top three goals?
I would love for there to be more! Right now there aren’t any more DMA books in the works, but I certainly wouldn’t rule them out. Sam’s top three goals for next year?
1. Be the type of drill sergeant her recruits can trust and count on.
2. Be a model female and continue to show the boys that girls are just as good as them!
3. As always, make her dad proud.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Joy!
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RITES OF PASSAGE
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.
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JOY N. HENSLEY
Born and raised in Virginia, I've come back to my roots after five years of wandering up and down the East Coast. From being a barista to editing, writing commercials for television to being a middle school/high school English teacher, there's nothing I'm not willing to try. That includes going to military school (on a dare), hiking 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and playing in the mud with my students!
A graduate of Greensboro College, I received the Excellence in English award for my fiction and poetry contributions. In 2007 I graduated from Long Ridge Writers Group's Breaking Into Print class, and in 2009 I finished their Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel classes.
Now, between hiking, doing obstacle course runs, and having fun with my husband and two sons, I continue to write. I am repped by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency.
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Thanks to Joy and HarperTeen I have some very cool swag, including official Rites of Passage dog tags, to give away on the blog today! And because I loved this book so much, I'm going to throw in a copy to one lucky winner, so please fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway