All the Rage by Courtney Summers (e-Proof) - When it was announced that All the Rage by Courtney Summers is going to be released in the UK in January 2016, I was so glad to hear it! More books seem to be coming out that are tackling this important subject of rape and rape culture, and the conversation they're creating is brilliant. Macmillan Children's Books have allowed me to review All the Rage two months early to include it in the Sex Crimes Week of Sex in Teen Lit Month II, and it's such a fantastic story!
I'm not using the summary on Goodreads, because it contains minor spoilers, but also because, for the most part, it doesn't really tackle the main plot of the story. So this time round, I'm including just my own summary.
Last year, Romy was raped by Kellan Turner, son of important influential people; the Sheriff of the town and the founder of a successful national auto supply chain. No-one believes her. Even her best friend Penny turned her back on her. She was drunk, she was wearing provocative clothing, she fancied Kellan, she wanted it, and there's no way the son of the sheriff would even dream of raping someone. She's an attention seeker. She's lying. Only she's not, and no-one cares.
When Romy wakes up the morning after a party on the the side of a highway, she has no idea how she got there. Nor does she understand why her shirt is open, her bra undone, and the words "rape me" are written on her stomach in lipstick. She can't remember anything from the party, but she knows she would never have drunk alcohol. So why is she there? What's worse, Penny has also disappeared, and has yet to be found. What happened to Penny? Are the two linked? It's hard to face each day when there's no news, especially when the people who hate you, hate you even more for being the one who was found.
All the Rage is such a brilliant story, but it's a hard one. It's emotionally draining, in the best way. Romy has spent so long having to deal with the crap she's getting from people. She was the one who was violated, yet she's the one who's the pariah. It's disgusting and so upsetting, and completely awful to read.
Kellan is the older brother of Penny's boyfriend, Alek. He's also the sheriff's son - who made it quite clear that Romy'll be torn to pieces if she reports her lies about his son. Her best friend turned on her, and with Penny and Alek being popular, and with Kellan being loved by all, so did everyone else, the whole community. No-one believes her, especially as she fancied Kellan, and actually thought she wanted to sleep with him before she was attacked - an email about which Penny gave to Sheriff Turner - and she now has jokes made about her rape at school.
The only good thing in her life is Leon, a guy who starts work at the diner she works at. He's from the neighbouring town, and so he doesn't know what happened to Romy, and as he doesn't know, he doesn't have an opinion on it. And he likes Romy; he sees her and he likes her, when most people can't stand her. Romy likes how Leon sees her, and wants to be that girl.
Because she doesn't like who she is now - a girl who was raped. Doesn't want to be this "dead girl". And as Leon doesn't know she's been raped, she gets to be the old her, a girl who is "alive". She tries so hard to keep her past from him, telling so many lies to keep it a secret, desperately trying to hold on to who he sees, how he makes her feel, because she can feel the "dead girl" starting to take over. She's really not coping with what happened to her, or how she's being treated, so seeing her try so hard to cling to who Leon sees is so heartbreaking. It's eating her up, and she just wants something good.
Romy also has issues with her body because of what was done to her, to it. There are so many upsetting moments where she talks about her body, how wishes she didn't have one, about who she is. It's like she can't find her identity any more, her sense of self. It's like she is, to herself, the Raped Girl, and can't seem to define herself outside of that. She is obsessed with having perfectly painted red nails and lips; it's how she presents herself to the world, her armour - she cannot be seen chipped or smudged. I never really understood that completely, but it's something she fixates on; she's not ready until they're perfect, and she can't function until they're ready. She almost has panic attacks at the thought that she smudged her lipstick, or she might chip her nail varnish. I think it's part of her trying to find her own self. She wants to be the girl with perfect red nails and red lipstick. Without it, she's just the girl who was raped.
The disappearance of Penny is huge to the town, but also to Romy personally. What happened to her? What happened that night? Why hasn't she been found? She's desperate for good news, but also doesn't want it to come too soon, because while everyone's talking about Penny, they're not talking about her. But because Romy went missing the same night and was found, there's talk of the wrong girl being found, of how the police looking for her might have found Penny if they weren't. It's terrible to hear, such derision, how little people care about Romt, but also for Romy to think about. Would Penny have been found if she hadn't wound up, however she did, on that highway? But she also thinks how if the tables were turned, the town wouldn't care; if Penny was found but she wasn't, no-one would be interested in finding her. There wouldn't be heartbreak at the school, the community wouldn't pull together to search for her. She simply doesn't matter.
I need to talk about the relationship between Romy and her mum and her mum's boyfriend, Todd. The relationship isn't perfect - they don't talk like they should, her mum and Todd don't really know the best way to help her, and mistakes are made - but they don't doubt her. They aren't ashamed of her. They love her, and are there for her. Sure, I could talk about how they should have done this and they should have done that, but her mum was so lost with how to help her, her drunk of a father disappeared on them, and they tried their best. When thinking about how Emma's parents reacted in Louise O'Neill's Asking For It, Romy's mum and Todd are such better parents, even if they get things wrong. They're behind her and support her. I just wish they had someone to help them help Romy.
All the Rage is an incredible novel, and the ending is so... painful. When everything comes together, and we have our answers, it's unbelievable. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. But also a measure of hope. All the Rage is a tragic novel in so many different ways, but it's a perfect story for all it shows us. And I'm so thankful we're getting, slowly but surely, more novels talking about this.
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the e-Proof.
Published: 28th January 2016
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Courtney Summers' Website