Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Title: All the Rage
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: April 14th 2015
Pages: 321
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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. 
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was more excited about All the Rage than I can remember being about a book in a while. Courtney Summers is one of my favorite authors, and I was so happy when I saw her next book would be addressing rape culture. And even though I had ridiculously high expectations, All the Rage didn't just meet them; it exceeded them! All the Rage is a powerful story that is sure to stay with me for a long time. 

All the Rage actually turned out to be kind of different from what I expected. I assumed it would be about how Romy was raped and about the immediate aftermath of her accusing the town's golden boy of raping her. But the real story doesn't start until much later than that; it's set after the town has already shunned her, which plays into the main story. And while I wish we would have seen a little bit more of the immediate aftermath, I absolutely loved the main story and how it all ties together, so I understand why Courtney Summers decided to start the story here. The description doesn't even really do it justice; I can't explain the story because it's so intriciate. Basically, it's just about a lot of messed up stuff that happens to Romy, and it all kind of ties back into how she was raped and how poorly the whole town reacted. This story is unlike anything I've ever read before, and it totally works.

I was surprised by how much All the Rage turned out to focus on the mystery. It's a little predictable - I didn't know exactly what happened or who did it, but the relation between the rape and the disappearance were kind of obvious. But that didn't make it any less gripping: Romy's emotional investment in figuring out what happened made me desperately need to know what exactly happened. It's excellently done, how the mystery ties into what is going on with Romy emotionally.

But really, Romy's emotional journey is the main focus of the novel. Victim-blaming and not believing victims happens everywhere, but Romy's situation is just horrifyingly bad - the guy who raped her is the sheriff's son, so when she tries to report it to the rapist's dad, it goes about as well as could be expected, especially since she's already ostricized in her small town. Romy's experiences are extraordinarily well-written; she is so broken and her raw emotions are palpable for the reader. You really feel for her and her suffering makes you see how deep the trauma of rape really goes, and how messed up our culture is for accepting it. 

The secondary storylines are expertly done as well. I loved the backstory of Romy's family, which brings up another set of important issues (alcoholism and disability). Romy's mom and stepdad are great characters, and I really appreciated the great relationship Romy has with both of them. Romy also works at a diner, and I loved the work dynamics and characters we meet there as well. 

I especially loved Romy's relationship with Leon, the love interest. When the main character is a survivor of sexual assault, romantic relationships are very hard to write, and I've read multiple books with unrealistic or inconsiderate romance storylines for survivors of sexual assault, which basically ruined the books for me. Romy's relationship with Leon, though, is extremely well-written. Leon is a great character and I absolutely loved how caring and understanding he is towards Romy. But of course, things don't go smoothly between them; Romy's struggle with opening herself up to a romantic relationship after what she has been through is portrayed with impressive honesty and complexity. I also loved that the topic of race is considered in the novel - Leon is black, while the rest of the cast is from an exclusively white small town. The black-male/white-female dynamic is explored in a meaningful and thought-provoking way, even if it is only discussed a couple of times throughout the novel. 

This whole story meant so much to me personally, I can't even put it in words. This is a powerful, important story that I know will stay with me for a while. Other than Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I can't think of a novel that so accurately and poignantly portrays the aftermath of rape and our culture's disturbing views on it. All the Rage is brilliant, gripping and raw; it's my new favorite Courtney Summers novel, and one of my favorite books in general. I urge everyone to read it; this is an important story, and Romy's voice is one that needs to be heard. 

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