Thursday, 28 January 2016

REVIEW: ALL THE RAGE BY COURTNEY SUMMERS



All the Rage by Courtney Summers.
Published by Macmillan on 28th January 2016.
Genre: YA Contemporary.
Source: Macmillan.
I received this book for free from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

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. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive? [synopsis from Goodreads]

My review: 

Before I get onto my thoughts on the topic, I'm going to talk about the book as a novel. I can't exactly say that I enjoyed it, because I was burning with sadness and sickness and rage throughout, but it really is an excellent book.

Summers' world building is absolute. Grebe is small-town middle America, it's a world away from my tiny village in the English countryside, but I felt like I'd been there, like I was there. I was oriented in the setting completely. Between Summers' words and media representations of this kind of place, I could imagine Grebe exactly. I could hear the small-town gossip spreading like wildfire, feel the claustrophobic encounters of a small population and see the prejudices of local law enforcement.

Courtney Summers' writing is sharp, as it needs to be to tell this story. Romy's voice is sharpened, hardened, it's so real and so strong, and it's the realness that makes the things she deals with so infuriating and heartbreaking. As a reader you are inside Romy's head, thinking things as she is thinking them. She sometimes has sudden thoughts, knee-jerk reactions that she can't control, harsh or bitter thoughts that she is then surprised by. But acknowledges that these are her true feelings. I related to that. I often have instant, reactionary thoughts that I'm shocked by; shocked by how hurt and damaged and bitter my thoughts can be.

One thing I would say is that the blurb is a little misleading. All the Rage isn't really about Romy's decision on whether to speak out, it's about what happens after rape, when a survivor is still a victim because of rape culture. Romy is stuck, both physically and emotionally. She is unable to move away or move on, because the town and the people are a constant reminder of what happened to her and because how could she possibly move on from something like this? Especially when justice isn't being served.

This could be anyone's story. This story has happened, is happening and will keep happening, until rape culture no longer exists. Until we stop victim blaming and teach people not to rape instead of teaching people to not get raped.

It's not just the rapist, it's the enitre communities that let this happen. That overlook rape and abuse and ruin lives. And the flawed justice system that prevents justice from being served. It's a whole system that distrusts women. Rape culture tells society that women can't be trusted and manipulates women into blaming themselves if something happens to them. All the Rage is filled with examples of everyday sexism, the casual and frequent comments from the patriarchal society that perpetuates and feeds into this damaging belief system. The important thing is that Romy questions this; 'I wanted to ask what she meant by unladylike', and therefore as a reader we too are encouraged to question things.

Romy is a victim, in the literal sense, but she's not a 'victim', she's not a damsel, she's not an oversimplified stereotype. She is a human - with beauty and flaws and personality and love and anger. She's real. She's me or you. That's the scary part, the real part; that she could just as easily be me or you, she might be me or you. Her story could be anyone's, and that's fucking horrible and all too real.

As I read All the Rage, I felt sick and angry and admonished. My hands were clenched with shock and disbelief and rage. So much rage, for the injustice and the horrible truth of it. It is this rage which made me want to shout about this book from the rooftops, to shout 'we need to talk about rape culture'. All the Rage opens up the conversation, lessens the taboo and will hopefully open people's eyes to the reality and the injustice that is happening now, all over the world.

Have you read All the Rage? What did you think? Come and join in the conversation on Twitter, using #TotheGirls2016.

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