review incoming: all the rage by courtney summers

I read All the Rage, the first novel I’d come across by Courtney Summers, this week, and as you can probably guess from the above tweet, I was pretty impressed by it. In fact, I’ll go all out and say I loved it, as much as you can love a novel that covers rape, rape denial, bullying, ptsd and the eventual disappearance of a teenage girl. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you but, suffice to say, All the Rage is not an easy read.

What it feels like, though, is an important read. I’ve read plenty of YA books that feel like they want to be important, but this is the real deal – a novel that really feels like one that should be being read in class and discussed by today’s teenagers.

A year ago, Romy Grey was date raped by the school’s golden boy. His dad is the town sheriff, his mother runs the biggest store in town, and his younger brother is her best friend’s boyfriend. Thanks to Penny, everyone knew about her crush on him. So now, no one believes her.

Outcast, friendless and viciously bullied, Romy arms herself with nail polish and lipstick to try to conceal what only she knows: that she’s already the walking dead. But when something awful happens, the dreadful consequences of the town’s failure to believe or protect Romy truly come home.

There’s a raw physicality to some of Summers’ writing that really reminds me of Megan Abbott’s depictions of teenage girls, which I adore. Little details like the way Romy carefully applies her red lipstick over and over again really resonate as the reader is taken inside the head of a traumatised teenager and her struggles to cope with what’s happened to her. It broke my heart and made me furious, because it all felt so real. There’s clear inspiration drawn here from the Steubenville High rape case, and, as with there, one of the truly sickening things about it is the way in which members of the community are focused not on what was done to the victim, but on the ‘unfairness’ of ruining the life of the perpetrator over it.

Remember that, if ever you think All the Rage goes over the top in its depiction here: this stuff really happened. Not to Romy, who’s fictional, but to a living breathing girl.

All the Rage isn’t done there in posing its questions about rape culture though: it wants to take things further. Because once you tell someone that they aren’t really a victim, once you give tacit acceptance of an act of rape, have you become culpable as well? Once you have legitimised someone as a target, are you partially responsible when other people continue to make them one? And can anyone ever be the same person after this has happened to them?

As I said, All the Rage isn’t an easy book to read. But I loved it nevertheless, despite how it left me weeping. I picked it up as a bit of bedtime reading, and never put it down again – I literally have no idea at what point I finally finished and went to sleep, because I didn’t dare check the time. I had to reach the end. And I’m so glad I did.

Most definitely a must-read. I’ve been seeing the hashtag #forthegirls used about this novel, but I’m afraid I have to disagree – this is one I want to see being #fortheboys as well.

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review incoming: all the rage by courtney summers

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