Our beautiful blonde, the one we admired and aspired to. They cry for her and twist their hands in a way they never would for me. This is what happens when a girl befalls a fate no one thinks she deserves.
—All the Rage, by Courtney Summers
You caught that, right? Not this is what happens when a girl befalls such a fate, but this is what happens when a girl befalls a fate no one thinks she deserves. A fate no one thinks she deserves.
Woe be to all the girls who aren’t the nice ones, the golden girls. When something bad happens to one of them—a girl who, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the support of the community, is deemed a troublemaker in some way—the first questions asked are: well, what did she do to provoke it? What was she wearing? Was she drinking? You know she’s been in trouble before, right?
I’m sure it’s already been said, but I have no doubt that Courtney Summers’ All the Rage will easily, easily become this decade’s Speak.
After Romy Grey was raped, no one believed her. Her attacker was the son of the sheriff and the woman who’d just fired Romy’s father, and in a small town, those connections matter. Now, her friends are her enemies, her teachers look at her sideways, people are cold and dismissive and, in some cases, outright nasty and physically aggressive. She’s lucky to make it through any given school day without a new cut or bruise, let alone with all of her possessions intact.
Then comes the night of the annual senior party, down by the lake. For obvious reasons, Romy doesn’t plan on going. But one minute she’s at work, and the next minute she wakes up on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere: scraped and bruised, head pounding, shirt undone. The entire night a blank.
Romy wasn’t the only one to go missing. Except the other girl—a NICE girl, a GOLDEN girl—also went missing…and she hasn’t been found. And pretty much everyone in town is thinking the same thing about and at Romy, some of them going so far as to give it voice: it should have been you.
All the Rage is a solid mystery. It’s an excellent vision of small town life, from the cadence of Romy’s voice to the claustrophobic feeling of everybody not only knowing your business, but feeling free to voice their casually cruel opinions about it. Summers shows how the sins of the older generation are attached to the younger ones, how rifts and feuds and prejudices are passed down and down and down. It’s about the difference between assuming you know someone and actually knowing them; about the difference between viewing a situation from the outside and actually being in it; about the difference between seeing a person from the outside and actually being in their skin. It’s about family, about creating it, about wanting to protect it.
But most of all, it’s about being a girl in America. It’s about how women are trained from an early age to avoid expressing anger. It’s about the double and triple standards that we live with:
Tears. I try to wipe them away before he sees, but I can tell he sees by the sigh he lets out, which makes me feel wrong, like it’s some kind of manipulation. If I know anything, it’s that a girl never makes a case for herself by crying.
Crying counts against girls because it is viewed as weak, as emotional, as irrational. Conversely, it also gets girls branded as manipulative. But if a girl RARELY cries, she gets called cold. So it’s a no-win situation. One of many that this book deals with.
It’s about how our culture is more inclined to feel bad for the male perpetrator of a crime—Oh, he had so much potential. Oh, he made a mistake. Oh, that poor boy. Oh, but he’s so nice, so talented, so handsome—than for the female victim of that crime. It’s about how women are told that caring about makeup and clothes is vapid and shallow, but that those things can be armor. It’s about how girls and women have to second-guess what they wear, just in case—If something happens—I don’t want to be wearing it—because if things go wrong and she’s wearing the “wrong” thing, everything will be that much worse.
It’s about survival, about violation and loss of trust and about endurance. It’s about the hurt people do to each other, and about other peoples’ willingness to not just overlook that hurt, but to compound it. I said this on Twitter while I was reading it: Reading All The Rage and it's making me so sad and so angry and so UNDERSTOOD. It should be required reading for everyone everyone everyone.
That’s not hyperbole. I really mean it. If you are concerned by rape culture, read it. If you don’t believe in rape culture, read it. Read it regardless of your age, your sex, your gender, whether you tend to believe the accuser first, or the accused. Read it because sexual assault is so prevalent in our world, and also because so many of the perpetrators get away with it. Read it because this is the personal experience of 1 in 6 American women.
Read it because this is the world our girls grow up in, the world they live in.
Because until we face it, nothing will change.
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.