If you know me, then you know how much I admire Courtney Summers and her exceptional writing for teens. Her latest book, All the Rage is a deeply moving and harrowing story of a young woman who is determined to speak out about being assaulted, even as she faces bullying and disbelief on all sides. As the publisher says… “All the Rage brings to light 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?”
I was fortunate to be offered the chance to ask Courtney some questions about her book; many thanks to Raincoast Books for the opportunity!
LGB: You write exceptionally strong books that to deal with difficult issues, especially issues faced by young women. Your books are often an outlet for girls who need to know that others struggle in the similar situations . What kind of books where you reading at that age that you found helpful?
CS: I loved Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I was also, in my early teens, obsessed with California Diaries, which was a spin-off series of the Baby-sitters Club–but grittier and darker–and super into the Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison. These were all helpful to me because the female characters in them were so emotionally complicated, not totally perfect. They felt real. When you’re a girl, people want to lock you into an idea of how to be one and it’s really easy to internalize stuff like that. So any book where a female protagonist was allowed to be herself was great for me because it made me think about who I wanted to be–and try to live up to that.
LBG: Congratulations on your #ToTheGirls Thunderclap campaign! Telling girls that they matter is so important, not just in their teenage years but throughout our lives. Who are the people who have supported you? What do you wish people had said to you when you were a teen?
CS: Thank you! I’m so excited about how well #ToTheGirls has been received! My family has supported me every step of the way and I have some incredible friends in my life, who listen to and support and encourage me and I’m grateful for them. I wish, when I was a teen, people had told me to be kinder to myself. I often felt I wasn’t good enough to be taking up any kind of space and I shouldn’t have let myself buy into that because it wasn’t true.
LBG: With ‘All The Rage’, you tackle the difficult and frankly terrifying reality of rape culture. What changes do you feel we need to advocate for in order to start changing the conversation around this topic?
CS: We need to keep talking about rape culture in the face of it. That’s so important–we can’t change the conversation by remaining silent. We can’t turn a blind-eye to sexual violence because it’s the easier thing to do. We need to educate people on topics like consent and victim-blaming. So many people do not have a basic understanding of these things and as a result, they perpetuate the rape culture. Education is vital to creating awareness, which then opens the door to change.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Jenn!
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?
You asked for it. You were drunk. You had a crush on him. You led him on. You wrote him emails. You let it happen. You were dressed for it. You didn’t tell anyone. You didn’t resist. Your kind wanted to trap him. It’s your word against his.
There were so many things swirling around my head as I read this book. I struggled at certain points – not because it was horrible or badly written, but because this story is brilliant and honest and raw. This story made me angry and it made want to weep in equal measures. There were times when I had to walk away from the narrative, because it is so real and difficult that it could be appearing on our television screens right now. My heart went out to Romy, and to Penny and to all the young women out there who have been assaulted and who are not heard. It’s hard to read about someone speaking the truth, and harder still to read about everyone choosing not to believe the truth that’s being said.
Romy is an incredible character. When you call out the son of one of the most powerful men in town, you label yourself as a target, and Romy is firmly in everyone’s crosshairs. She has been devastated by what has happened to her, and her life has completely changed, yet she continues to stand by her declaration. People doubt her version of events, overtly bully her at school and whisper about her around town. Her confidence has been shattered, to the point where she can’t trust her own judgement, especially when she finds someone she could possibly like again. Her budding relationship with Leon is heart-wrenching, and you can feel the conflict within Romy as she struggles to regain some semblance of her previous life. The only thing that she can control are the little things, such as her nails, as if those and her red lipstick are the only tangible reminders of the girl she used to be.
This is a story in parts; first we need to understand what Romy has been through and how she became the school pariah. During this time, Romy’s former friend Penny, who chose not to stand by her, slowly comes to realize that perhaps all the Romy has said is not “attention-seeking” – and then Penny goes missing. Now the whole town is looking for her, and looking to Romy for answers. Romy doesn’t have them, because there are still aspects of her memory that have not returned to her. These memory gaps reinforce the losses of her life, including her social life, friendships and status.
While this may be a fictional story, it will ring true for many readers. Rape is a horrible, terrible process; what makes it more despicable is the way that we treat the victims and often shelter the rapists. An act of rape is the process of removing dignity and power from an individual. To have the abuse of power and lack of support perpetuated after the physical attack continues to be an issue in our society, and one that we struggle to acknowledge. Summers has proven that she understands the torture that girls can put each other through in her previous novels, and in this book she extends her scope to include how we prefer to believe what is easy, rather than what is right. All the Rage will make you angry, upset and frustrated, and that’s a good thing. We need to talk about how we treat victims of sexual assault, and how we can change the conversation around rape for the better. I can only hope that this book is one of the reasons why we start talking again.
All the Rage is out now, and is published by St. Martin’s Griffin, distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada. A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase from both online and print booksellers, and from your favourite indie bookstore. ISBN: 9781250021915, 336 pages.