May 16th, 2015 (01:54 pm)
Current Mood: contemplative
Current Song: Winter Sun by Jessica Rotter
Courtney Summers' latest novel All the Rage begins in third-person narrative, detailing what happened to a girl at a party - at a table - in a truck - at the hands of the boy she thought she liked. Within three short pages, we learn this all happened a year ago, that this is a flashback, as we abruptly shift to first-person narrative and are brought into the here and now, where and when something has taken place that makes same girl feel even more ashamed and lost.
The action then shifts back in time two weeks and goes from there. Just two few weeks. Less than half a month. Not a lot of time, right? And yet so much can and will and does happen in that time.
A year ago, Romy was raped by a golden boy, the son of the town sheriff. Her complaints tossed aside like so much dirt, the case not pursued, Romy lost the respect of her peers, who think she made it all up, and her best friend, who is dating the sheriff's other son. Thankfully, Romy has the support of her mother - though they aren't extremely close, as Romy keeps everyone at arm's length - and she makes it through every school day with gritted teeth. At night, she escapes to her job at a restaurant at the next town over, where her reputation doesn't follow her like a cloud of dust.
The supporting characters in this book feel very real and distinct. For example, Todd, Romy's mother's boyfriend. If this were a film, I'd put Clayne Crawford or Christian Kane in that role in a heartbeat. I appreciated the realistic depiction of his chronic pain and condition, and I hope it makes people think twice before they call someone in that position "lazy." Throughout the book, Romy's mother's attempts to connect with her daughter are both heartwarming and heartbreaking, particularly the scene at The Barn (picture Big Lots!) and what comes after. If this were a film, smart actresses that fit Romy's mom's type and age would be doing everything they could to audition for that role. Then there's Leon, Romy's good-hearted co-worker who likes her, as well as his welcoming older sister and brother-in-law, who are preparing for the arrival of their first child. (Romy's reaction to that news is painful: she hopes for their sake it's not a girl.)
This feels like Courtney Summers' most mature work to date. Not to say her previous books were not mature - far from it; please read her debut novel Cracked Up to Be, followed by Some Girls Are, and on from there - but there's something even more grounded here, in the word choice of the author, the pacing of the story, and the mentality/narrative of the protagonist. "It's like a Sarah Dessen novel written by Courtney Summers," I said to a friend the day after I read it. (Then I added: "Now go read it so I can discuss it with you.")
The story could have gone in so many directions. We could have ended up in a courtroom, or a detention center, had the story focused on the pursuit of the person who attacked Romy. Or Romy could have run away, or not gotten up when she hit the ground. Instead, the book follows the story of two missing girls, only one of whom is missing in the way you suppose; the other has been gone for a long time, yet she's still there somehow - she's still here, somehow - and she tries to cover up the cracks in her foundation with red, red, red.
The story could have gone in so many directions. That's what I love about good stories and good storytellers: you can read ten books or watch ten movies or listen to ten songs with the same basic premise, but they won't be exactly the same, and the truly good ones will stand out due to the quality of the work and/or the unique sound and flavor of the author, the narrator, the singer, the artist. Summers has a distinct style, a simple and frank way of putting words down to guide readers along a train track and into a scarred soul. She usually uses first-person narrative to relate the thoughts and experiences of her protagonists, who are often burdened by secrets and losses that have shaken their strength - but it is that underpinning of strength that allows the characters to rebuild, to move forward, to strive for better.
The conclusion of All the Rage leads me to believe that Romy is going make it after all, and it is that simple thing - hope - that carries so many of us through the day, day after day. Instead of getting buried under the secrets and the pain, we should share our truths and make things better not only for ourselves, but for others. If we speak up, if we tell our stories, if we say no to what we don't want and yes to what we do want, we can have the lives we deserve and make the world safer, better, stronger, more wonderful for us all.
My favorite lines in the book include:
- ...the compliment lingers and fades. I remind myself it's nothing I have to hold or be held to. - Page 27
- Still, the way he says it to me is different than he'd say it to anyone else. Small town nuance. Something you don't learn in the city, It's knowing when hello means go away or when rough night means I know you got drunk again or when yeah, I'd love to see you, it's just so busy lately means never, never, never. - Page 37
- When Conway tells me he hopes I'm staying out of trouble what he means is I am the trouble. - Page 37
- I wonder what Leon sees when he looks at me. - Page 43
- I didn't want to see what that looked like on their faces because however they gave it back to me would come from some place I don't want any part of. - Page 53
- Sometimes I want to ask Todd how he's so good at that. Knowing more than he lets on. But I have a feeling it's from all those years he spent on the outside after his accident. When all you can do is watch, you see. - Page 128
- She doesn't even know how hard it's going to be yet, but she will, because all girls find out. - Page 263
- My heart is heavy with the weight of my body and my body is so heavy with the weight of my heart. - Page 314
- The last line of the very first section, and the last line of the book. I won't spoil them here; I'll simply say they act as bookends.
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Summers (2015)
Interview: Courtney Summers (2008)
Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Book Review: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
What Makes Courtney Summers Smile
So You Want to Read YA? Booklist by Little Willow at Stacked