Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers

When word gets out about what happened to Romy at the hands of the sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, the town brands Romy a liar. No one listens to the girl from the bad part of town who’s living in the shadow of her alcoholic father. Everyone has it out for Romy: the girls at school, Kellan’s brother, even the sheriff himself.

All Romy wants to do is hide—from the bullies, her reputation, her past—so she takes a job waitressing at a diner outside of town, where no one knows about her. But when another girl from school goes missing after the senior class’s craziest party of the year, Romy’s past becomes front and center again, and she battles with whether or not to speak up. After all, no one believed her the first time.

ALL THE RAGE is about rape. That’s no spoiler: it happens by page three. Even more, it’s about rape culture and society’s victim-blaming tendency. The way the characters treat Romy in this book is horrifying. Sheriff Turner, in particular, unsettled me because of his authority—both as the sheriff and an influential voice in the town. He essentially commands the popular opinion, and he turned it against Romy immediately.

Courtney Summers also successfully examines how a girl’s image affects how she is treated. No spoilers, but the contrasts presented between Romy and the missing girl—in particular, how the town views them—are stark. And ugly. And one hundred percent believable. I thought back to my high school days and wondered, who would we cherish and who would we brush off? It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun to acknowledge. But it’s there. Summers is spot on in her critique of our society’s current views.

One of the sharpest parts of this book is the writing. Not one throwaway word. Summers has said she spent years writing this book, and it shows. Each sentence furthers the tone of the book: “The sun is in my throat. I woke up choking on it, my skin slimy with sweat and stuck to the sheets…It’s a sick heat. Makes you sick.” I want to read the book again just to study the sentence structure and word choice. Summers also plays with time a little bit. Not much, but just enough for you to feel Romy's disorientation and how the rape never fades into the background: it's always part of her present moment. 

This is a five-star book for me, but it’s not a book for everyone. It’s dark from beginning to end. I believe it’s worth reading, though, and it makes you think for hours after you finish the last words. Romy’s voice won’t be leaving you anytime soon.     

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