Friday, August 28, 2015

Young Adult Fiction: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I didn't want to read this book. I purposefully left it off of my Goodreads lists because I was making a point to avoid it. And then, because I read This Is Not a Test and liked it more than I thought I would, I did something silly like place it on my Amazon wish list with the thought of "well, if someone else gets it for me then I'll read it." And of course, that is what happened. That is how All the Rage by Courtney Summers ended up here, on this blog. I tried to avoid it, but it ended up on my shelf anyway. Maybe I was supposed to read it, not for me, but for someone else who would avoid it, or not even know about it. Maybe they shouldn't avoid it. Maybe they need to know about it too.

The Situation: It is Romy Grey's senior year of high school and she has become a social pariah. High school is hard enough without people purposefully ignoring you, whispering about you, or taking your bra and underwear while you shower after gym class in order to display them later in some very public and very humiliating way. But that is Romy's daily reality. She was raped by Kellan Turner, the sheriff's son, but no one believes her. So she has now lost her friends, her alcoholic father walked away from her family, and she now works one town over in order to just escape what has become her life. The bright spots are her mother, and her mother's boyfriend, Todd, who they now live with. There is also Leon, the cook at the diner Romy works at. Leon has no idea what happened to Romy and what her non-work life is really like, and Romy would like to keep it that way for as long as possible. To him, she isn't that girl.

The Problem: One day an old friend from before the rape shows up at the diner and everything changes, again. There is another girl in trouble, and it may help matters if Romy were to speak up and be honest about a few things, but the last thing she wants to do is make another visit to the sheriff's office. She is also sure that, once again, no one will believe her. And while she also doesn't want more attention, it is she gets as the situation seems to spiral out of control, and she can't seem to stay out of trouble. If she stays silent, people assume she is hiding something. If she speaks out, then she is a liar. If she does nothing, the she is selfish and doesn't care. And if she tries to help, then she has some nerve and should know no one wants her around. The only thing that may save Romy is the truth of everything that happened, but it is the thing she can't bring herself to deal with.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult fiction novel that deals with the always extremely sensitive and often polarizing subject of rape. Summers confronts the subject head-on and does not pull any punches. The details of how it happened are fairly explicit, and Romy is dealing with all of psychological effects of it. Also, the teenagers that she must attend high school with are absolutely relentless. No one believes that the sheriff's son raped her, so everyone, even those that were supposed to be her friends, have turned on her. They call her awful and ugly names; they pull pranks on her and then high-five each other in the hallway; they trip her during gym class and claim no fault; they take every opportunity they can to humiliate her; and they generally make her life a living and unending hell. As a result, Romy forces herself to stay silent, for the most part, but she is ultimately filled with an incredible and eventually undeniable amount of rage. She is angrier than angry. "Angry" is actually insufficient. She is livid, she is pissed, she is blind with fury. And outside of her mother and Todd, no one wants to believe she is allowed to be.

My Verdict: Like I said before, I didn't really want to read this book. I read the synopsis and knew it was something I would not be up for enduring. For one, I need little convincing that teenagers can be awful human beings, so I didn't want any help from a YA book about a rape victim that is eternally bullied. Second, this will be the fourth book in 2015 alone that I will have read that deals with some sort of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault on a teenage girl. This isn't by accident folks...people write about this stuff for a reason. With all of that being said, this a great book, although it feels weird to say that, considering the story. Don't get me wrong, it is hard to read. It helps that it is YA and therefore the pages turn at a faster rate than with a book written for adults. But there are parts of this book where you know what is coming and you dread it, but it comes anyway, and it is worse than you thought it would be. So if you don't want to read about rape and how awful teenagers can be, don't pick up this book. I'm not going to say that everyone should read this book and face the reality of sexual abuse. I'm glad I read it, but I probably would have been fine if I didn't.

Favorite Moment: I just like that Romy didn't shut herself up her in her house and shut down completely, despite there being sufficient reason for her to do so.

Favorite Character: Romy's would-be stepdad, Todd, is a good man. Romy and her mom and moved into his house, now that her alcoholic father is out of the picture. And while he is obviously concerned about Romy, he doesn't try too hard or even push too hard, somehow managing to walk the line between concerned parent and supportive friend, which allows Romy to trust him. 

Favorite Heartbreaking Quote: "Because teenage girls don't pray to God, they pray to each other. They clasp their hands over a keyboard and then they let it all out, a (stupid) girl's heart tucked into another girl's heart." 

Recommended Reading: If you enjoy this type of difficult reading, I recommend Marjorie Brody's Twisted, or even Ava Dellaira's Love Letters to the Dead. But if you want to read more from Summers, I recommend her YA zombie thriller, This Is Not a Test.

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