All the Rage by Courtney Summers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I did not feel the rage.
I wanted to. And I felt plenty of other things. Annoyance. Boredom. Exasperation. But not rage. Well, except for when I reread the book jacket. I am enraged that any publisher would allow such a misleading description be written on a book. Kellan--the very first character we meet in the book description--does not ever show up in the book! So for anyone who was interested in the dynamic between a rape victim and the perpetrator, forget it. All the Rage is honestly a book about bullying, plain and simple. And not even a very good one, in my opinion, because the main character, teenage loner Romy, is so unredeemable.
Romy starts miserable and stays miserable. We might be able to empathize with her if we could get any real backstory to offset what a drag she is . . . but nope. (Allegedly she used to be part of the "in" crowd, before she tried to report being raped, but we never see much evidence of this, or of the person she used to be.) We might be able to root for her if she were nice and/or honest to anyone, ever . . . but nope. She shuts out everyone who tries to be nice to her (her mom, the black love interest Leon, who I'll get back to), and us, the reader, too. Which makes her boring and unsympathetic (except for the fact that she was raped, obviously, but fictional rape victim, sorry to say, does not automatically make an interesting character).
Speaking of boring, the love interest, Leon, is boring. He has zero dimensions outside of a) being black, and b) being interested in Romy. The race element is completely ignored for 99% of the book, which I find a horrific oversight on the part of both the author and her editor. In such a small town of petty--presumably white--people, I feel like his being black should be a HUGE DEAL. But Romy never really thinks about it, and no one ever reacts to his presence (minus one tiny scene that is really just a plot device to get them to fight), and so he might as well have been one more bland white character as far as this book is concerned. Then, as for liking Romy, I sincerely don't understand why he has any feelings for her, other than possible physical attraction (which seems unlikely, since she takes such pains to cover herself up and keep from attracting sexual attention--apart from the statement lipstick and nail polish of course).
The most interesting character, in my opinion, is Romy's stepfather Todd. He has a disability that keeps him from being able to work, and yet he does his best to live a normal life and maintain his dignity as a man despite people accusing him of being useless. He tries to be a good husband and father, both roles which he is taking over from another man. These, again, are huge topics that would warrant their entire own novel to explore sufficiently (and, of course All the Rage doesn't have the capacity to do it). Nevertheless, I found him to be the realest character in the book, and I hope someone does write about this sort of character. I'd be very interested in reading such a novel.
I haven't even gotten to the plot, but I think my point has been made. Without a protagonist you can root for in some way, and without a relatively nuanced cast of characters to support that protagonist, any novel will fall short. Also, just to be clear, I am not questioning the importance of talking about rape in this review; it is a serious topic and it deserves to be dealt with in an impactful, tasteful, engaging manner. I simply do not feel that, as a YA novel, All the Rage did it justice.
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