All the Rage
by Courtney Summers
Original Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: St Martins Press
Obtained Via: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
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Warning: This book, and consequently this review, deals heavily with themes of rape, sexual assault, and sexual violence.
“You know all the ways you can kill a girl?”
God, there are so many.
At fifteen, a girl tells me and my friends to stay away from a certain part of the building after-hours. She doesn’t look at us. “I know what he did to another girl,” she says, but we all know she means “I know what he did to me.”
The bell rings and I shuffle off to class, thinking Shouldn’t I tell someone about this? But who would believe us?
We learn it young.
Maybe it’s a prayer.
I hope it’s not a girl.
“It could have been worse,” She says about her own rape. We’re all speechless, but we know what she means. Because already we’re conditioned to think “well, date rape is pretty bad, but at least it wasn’t a dark alley and a gun.” Because we think about the way others tell us we don’t our own bodies, and we scale them in terms of bad and worse because it’s the only thing we can think to do.
She doesn’t even know how hard it’s going to be yet, but she will, because all girls find out.
“He waited until his girlfriend left,” She says.
“You can still tell someone,” I say. She shakes her head. “I’m not a minor anymore.”
Because then, young and unsure, we don’t have the words to explain why it’s still wrong, why when you’re a girl and you turn eighteen and you’re “legal” you still get a say it was happens over your body, why it’s not just a crime when it happens to minors. We think of rape and we still of strangers with knives. We don’t think about the girl we all know coerced into an act she didn’t want by her boyfriend(the rumors fly about her). We don’t think about situations like that. We’re the “good girls”. It doesn’t happen here, at least not to girls like us. At least that’s what we say we think. It’s so often our last line of defense because deep down we know it can happen to any of us.
How do you get a girl to stop crying?
You cover her mouth.
I’m not even sure what to say about All the Rage, except that it struck something primal inside me and made me feel so much, and I don’t mean in the way we sometimes say “this book gave me all the feels”. I mean this book made me feel anger and outrage. Except maybe instead of saying it made me feel those things, I should say it allowed me to feel those things, those emotions girls aren’t “supposed” to feel.
I’m a voracious reader. I read over 100 books a year, and I’ve read a good handful of books that deal with sexual violence and it’s aftermath, but none of them(yes, including Speak), made quite the same impression on me that All the Rage did. It’s such a perfect portrait of what it’s often like to be a girl. The stories I shared above in vague terms? It’s not even a tenth of the conversations I’ve had on this subject, and I think most women would say they know what these conversations sound like.
All the Rage is Romy’s story, and it’s a heartbreaking and all-too-familiar one. The back of book synopsis isn’t bad, but I don’t think it really gets at what the book is actually about. Yes, All the Rage is in large part about the aftermath of Romy’s rape, but it’s also about a girl’s disappearance and the culture that often works to disempower girls. It’s about gendered violence and entitlement, and the way girls so often aren’t allowed to own themselves.
At the start of All the Rage, it’s been a year since Romy’s rape, and she’s. . . well, she’s not dealing that well, but she’s surviving. She’s getting by because she has no other choice, but she feels like everything’s been taken from her. She has so little action available to her because who would be able to go up against the small town sheriff? So she wears red lipstick and paints her nails bright red and lets it armor her against the outside world as she goes to work, to school, as she realizes there might be a guy she’s interested in and she doesn’t know how to deal with that.
Then, Romy’s former best friend Penny goes missing, and that brings things even more into the focus. There’s so much there to explore that if I mentioned it all I would never finish this review, but this works so much to show Romy’s situation and how it fits into the larger narrative of surviving in a girl when everyone’s against you. Penny’s the girl everyone likes, so they make search parties for her and weep. Romy’s the “girl who cried rape”, so many of the boys feel entitled to her and can’t even see her as a person, if they ever did.
If it had been me instead of Penny, no one would call me a light. No, they’d think of me the way they think of me now, think of it as some kind of natural conclusion to my story, sad, maybe, deserved it, well no, of course no one does, but. That girl. You can see it. It’s written on her.
They wrote it on her.
The girls get hurt and the boys who hurt them get the sympathy. “What a bright future he could have had” is a theme that comes up in All the Rage, and one that’s definitely been played out in the media over and over again in real life. The lesson for girls like Romy seems to be: His future matters more than your present. Don’t ruin it. Just. Keep. Quiet.
I’ve appreciated(because “enjoy” seems like the wrong word) all of Courtney Summer’s books in various amounts, but the writing in On the Rage is on another level. It’s brutal and brilliant in the way that the story is strung together. Reading All the Rage is a lot like flipping through a photo story. You don’t get all the scenes, but you get all the relevant ones until it feels like a line of dominoes waiting to fall and give you that one last swift kick.
I should also note that All the Rage also has wonderful side characters. There’s Leon, a boy who works at the diner with Romy and who likes her. Then there’s Romy’s mom, who tugged on my heartstrings almost as much as Romy did. Romy’s mom wants to be involved, wants to help, but it’s like there’s a wide divide between the two of them and she tries so hard. There’s the girl at school who’s terribly to Romy and you want to hate her but it’s so hard because so much of her meanness is fed from this horrible culture they’re all and she doesn’t even know it.
And it’s not that she tells him it didn’t happen, it’s that by the time he asks, she no longer has a language of her own. But that’s enough. It always is.
All the Rage is not the first book to tackle rape culture, but it is the one that has made me feel the most and really pulled at something raw inside me. This is such an important, important book, and I want to give a copy to ever teen girl I know.
One of the best books I’ve read all year, Courtney Summers has outdone herself this time. I sincerely hope this book gains a lot of popularity because I would love to see it read all over the place. 5/5 cupcakes.