Courtney Summers is Canadian – let’s just get that out of the way. I am extra disposed to love her because she’s, you know, Canadian. Like Ryan Gosling is Canadian. And ketchup chips. Okay, now I am just putting off talking about All The Rage because reading Summers isn’t like reading other YA writers. She hits you hard right in the solar plexus. Every. Time.
Romy Grey used to be on the inside – until a party changes everything. Now she finds herself navigating the shark-infested waters of her high school and her small town, Grebe, where everyone knows everyone and all those everyones are subservient to the Turners – the town sheriff and his business owner wife.
When Romy wakes up in a ditch, disoriented and with no memory of what’s happened to her, it brings her back to another night when a beautiful boy – a boy she wanted – rapes her in the back of his pick-up truck.
…how do you get a girl to stop crying?
You cover her mouth.
Romy never tells anyone what this beautiful boy, Kellan Turner (one and the same) did to her. Instead, she pushes the trauma of it as far down inside as she can and protects herself by painting her nails and lips red. But this second incident – the waking up on the side of the road – starts to unravel Romy. Things are further complicated by the fact that another girl, Penny, is missing. Penny and Romy used to be friends, but are no longer.
There is so much going on in All The Rage. And, frankly, Summers’ timing couldn’t be any better. We live in a world that blames the girl and, regretfully, never really holds the boy accountable. One need only recall the circumstances surrounding the victim in the Brock Turner rape case to realize how inadequate society’s reaction to these horrific events is. (The link will take you to the victim statement, which should be required reading.) And almost more problematic is the fact that often women don’t stand with women in these cases. Romy finds herself isolated, bullied mercilessly by other girls which I find incredibly disturbing.
Girls are told what they can and can’t wear – an ongoing issue in every single high school, I am sure – because a visible bra strap or a too-short skirt is clearly an invitation to be assaulted. The victim-blaming is insidious.
It’s all too easy for Romy to be victimized. She was never really part of the gang. Her father was the town drunk. She’s from the wrong side of town. Now everyone blames her for Penny’s disappearance. It’s no wonder that Romy starts to come apart.
At the checkout, it’s just boys at the registers and I can’t stand the idea of them knowing what I wear underneath my shirt. I tell Mom I have a headache, give her my wallet, and wait in the car while she pays for it all. I wish I didn’t have a body, sometimes.
There are some good things in Romy’s life. She lives with her mother, who is awesome, and her mother’s new boyfriend, Todd – whom I LOVED, btw. He’s one of the good guys. Leon, the cook at the diner where Romy waitresses, genuinely seems to care for her.
All The Rage tackles a difficult subject with respect and tremendous insight. Romy is a beautifully drawn character, fragile and tremendously brave in equal measure. If I wasn’t already a huge fan of Summers’, I certainly would be after reading this book.