All the Rage by Courtney Summers


"You know all the ways you can kill a girl? God, there are so many."

All the Rage is the book that Courtney Summers was always meant to write.

Its themes will be familiar to anyone who's read a Courtney Summers book before. Mean girls. High school viciousness. A friend who's gone missing, and a protagonist who feels partly responsible. A rape accusation against a powerful boy that ostracises a previously popular girl.

But All the Rage brings all these things together in a way that Summers' previous (and excellent) novels didn't. It's a very internal novel, focussing on highschool senior Romy, several months after she was raped by the sheriff's son and dismissed as an attention-seeking liar. When her ex-best friend goes missing on a night Romy doesn't remember, she's forced to face her repressed trauma while navigating a society that grieves for her friend the way they never grieved for her.

And the book turns it all into a brutal indictment of society's treatment of teenage girls. I started highlighting quotes to potentially use in my review about halfway through, and I ended up with more than I could possibly use, more painful little statements than my heart could handle.

Things like:

"I wish I didn't have a body, sometimes."

"No is a dead word."

And the one that I think is most thematically relevant:

"I wonder if that means she thinks I'm beautiful enough to be tragic."

Because I'm tired of stories about rape. I'm tired of stories about missing girls, dead girls, girls who are tragically destroyed so that others can live and learn. I'm exhausted by this aesthetic of the delicate Ophelia type, drowning in the cover art of her own book, the ways that a suffering pretty girl is meant to be beautiful. But All the Rage is both one of those books and a challenge to those books. It's punch-you-in-the-stomach real, ripping to shreds the idea of the "beautiful victim" and tearing back all the layers of how girls are victimized, punished, hated, destroyed, simply for being girls. It's ugly and horrific and terrifying and so important to read.

It's not a happy book. It's not a comfortable book. It's not a hopeful book. But it is an excellent book, if you have the stomach to read it.