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.
I read this book a while ago, was deeply affected by it and have since avoided writing a review for it because I didn’t, and still don’t, have words to put into writing how good All The Rage is. This is a very dark, often upsetting book that honestly puts Courtney Summers onto another level as an author. She is brilliant, unflinching in the subjects she chooses to weave a story around, unafraid of carving out female characters who aren’t always sympathetic or fit the traditional lead girl stereotype, and above all she is completely scathing of the way girls (especially teenage girls) are treated by society.
All The Rage focuses on a teenage girl, Romy, who is raped by the small town golden boy and is made to suffer the consequences for it. It’s a story that uses a small town as a microcosm of society to enforce how rape and sexual assault against women is made worse by the fact that girls are conditioned to shoulder the blame for everything; how women are made to feel as though they should apologize for being raped and then again for speaking up against their rapists and abusers. Summers perfectly illustrates the claustrophobic nature of small towns where everyone knows everyone. Romy’s ordeal is spread through word of mouth and she finds herself the target of vicious hatred and victim-blaming. People are outspoken about Romy either exaggerating or outright lying about what happened to her; she is isolated both by the townspeople and in high school. The sheriff, father of Romy’s rapist, goes out of his way to force her to recant her story, and in school Romy is targeted over and over again in acts of cruel bullying. It’s a damning examination of rape culture at its worst.
There is also a subplot involving Romy’s former best friend, Penny, who is reported missing shortly after Romy and Penny meet for the last time. Summers uses Penny to examine how the ‘right’ sort of victim attracts more media attention and town support while also talking about the internal politics that exist in the friendships between teenage girls. I don’t know how to explain how much it affected me but these bonds, often unspoken, exist everywhere in this book. Romy’s relationship with Penny, the way in which it is the girls who often bully her worse than the boys, the hesitant ways in which other victims reach out to Romy…it was so realistic and utterly heartbreaking. Summers doesn’t shy away from how ugly internalized misogyny can be or how society teaches girls to silence themselves, something that comes to head in one of the most powerful scenes in the book. I thought it was extraordinarily done that All The Rage opens with a scene between two girls trusting each other with make-up and secrets and then closes with a scene between two girls talking about the trust that should exist between them. I had to put the book down to cry for a little while.
This is an outstanding achievement by an author and one of the most compelling books I have ever read. I would love to see this being taught in schools. One thing I will say though: if you go into this expecting to meet Romy’s rapist, abandon that thought. All The Rage focuses entirely on the victim, sparing no words on Kellan Turner other than in Romy’s memories of what he did to her. His absence is a statement, and one I absolutely loved. So yes, please do yourselves a favour and read this book.