Review: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

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The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. — [X]

I have been itching to read All the Rage ever since Courtney Summers started putting up quotes on her Tumblr. I knew it had something to do with a sl**-shaming, but I’d begun to suspect there was more to it:

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1CU0JDU

And the snippets just got more intriguing:

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1yzLfIJ

And they always hit home for me:

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1cD4VBz

When I finally got the book, I thought I was ready.

But WOW was I wrong.

See, Romy is a girl whose life is split between the before and the now of a trauma. The before is a blur of events that are narrated as happening to some other girl. The now is moment after painful moment of Romy trying to take charge of her life, building up her armour, scrabbling to control what parts of her body she can (and consequently how people perceive her), stinging from the betrayal of friends and peers, hoping for a boy who is not just nice, but is safe. But when Romy’s meticulous barriers begin to crumble, and an old name begins to surround her again, suffocate her again, Romy’s past and present begin to collide violently. And this is where Courtney Summers’ writing is truly brilliant. Between the chaos of self-loathing and the cruelty of victim-blaming, Summers’ words aren’t healing or didactic. They are wry and unflinching and never, not for a single second, disingenuous.

This is so not the book you cry over. (Although there is definitely room for that reaction too.) This is a book that makes you hulk out. Not at the book, of course. That would be like being angry at a window instead of the ugly view that it frames.

Reading Romy’s story, watching her compartmentalize her rape, watching her cope (ugh, what a word) and survive in a world that punishes girls simply for being is harrowing and angering to the extreme. And yet, you cannot stop because Summers’ writing is so full of the kind of truths that can both shock as well as liberate, that you can’t help but be moved by hope for some kind of …

… what?

Healing?

Closure?

Judicial triumph?

Saying this book is about rape culture makes it sound like rape culture is a disease that can be treated through quarantine, by setting it aside from healthier attitudes towards women. Like if the rapist is caught and convicted, the grey clouds lift and a rainbow appears. But that’s not how it works at all, and All the Rage makes sure we see that.

What All the Rage does exceedingly well is reveal how misogyny has so insidiously taken over every aspect of our lives, making every single person complicit to some degree– whether they know it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not. Misogyny isn’t a disease at all. It’s more like slowly vacuuming the air from a room and asking girls to stop being dramatic and just breath deep.

So, where does a book like this one leave off?

How can a story that has so little fiction to it end?

I suppose that’s up to what we do when we put the book down. Courtney Summers, for her part, sparked off a trending tag on Twitter: tothegirls. It really was the most appropriate way to welcome the book into the world:

Our society is so broken. Denying it means stepping on the shards and smiling apologetically. Understanding the wreckage begins with reading this book.

Highly recommended.

*I should probably specify “being a girl or woman in North America” or something to that effect, but I’ve lived in India, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and never in Mexico. So, I can’t make geographic specifications like that. Girls hating themselves and their bodies? I suspect that it’s not something that is contained in any one part of the world. 🙁

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