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Didn't really live up to my (admittedly high) expectations

All the Rage - Courtney Summers



The problem with having really high expectations for a book, is that it is so rare for them to meet those expectations. This book was good - even quite good - but it failed to live up to the promise of the blurb and it didn't deliver the emotional impact that that the reviews and buzz had caused me to expect.


I'm going to start with my major issue with this book: when publishers blurb books, the writer should actually read the book. 


"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, Courtney Summers' new novel All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them."


Based on that blurb, I think it is fair to assume that, first, Kellan Turner will be a character in the book and that his "golden boy" status will be important, and second, that he probably has something to do with the disappearance of the "girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan." That is the book I was expecting to read. A book about a girl who was raped, and the boy who went on to be a serial rapist and harmer of girls and women, and an entire town that was complicit in the ensuing destruction when they refused to hold him accountable after his first crime because his victim wasn't a "good girl" with important parents.


That's not at all the book I read.


So, I'm not saying that this wasn't a good book. It was. But it was not the book I bought, and that is not okay with me. I don't think it is Courtney Summer's fault, but that blurb needs to be rewritten.


Now, let's talk about the book I actually read. Because in spite of the fact that I was disappointed, I do still think it was worth reading. 


The book is told from the perspective of Romy Grey, and Romy Grey is damaged because of her experience. Romy is oblique in her narrative - she often speaks in riddles or circles or leaves out details. Figuring out what is going on sometimes requires filling the gaps of information. The timing is unclear, and based on the reviews I have read, I think that different readers have inferred different timeframes.


I feel like maybe I should read it again, and try to really work out the clues. But, I don't want to read it again because in spite of the fact that the writing is quite good, it was frustrating to read.


I think that maybe this book tried to do to much - tried to be too many things. In addition, having been a sex crimes prosecutor for about twenty years, it was impossible for me to completely set aside my prosecutor hat while I was reading the book. Some of the things rang really true, some of them really didn't.


What rang true? Well, Romy's experience rang true to me, which is an accomplishment on the part of the author. Victim narratives are often quite similar to Romy's, with information that is out of order, or details that are lost in the event. The community response was also believable, sadly. It is quite common for victim narratives to be treated with hostility and offender narratives to be treated with complete investment in their truth. 


What didn't work for me? I never could figure out exactly what Romy had done/said in response to the sexual assault. There is a reference at the end that it wasn't too late for Romy to report. This confused me, because I read the entire book under the assumption that she had reported, but her report was dismissed, and trying to reframe the situation based on this, with the conclusion that she hadn't "reported," but had only told a friend or two, well, that didn't really make sense to me either, because the sheriff clearly knew of the accusation, and Kellan had left town. Possibly to go to college, or possibly in response to the accusation. I'm still completely uncertain about what happened in the immediate aftermath of the sexual assault, and how long prior to the main events of the book that sexual assault happened.


If this were just a narrative of Romy Grey and how being raped first, and then having her rape disregarded second, impacted her, none of these niggling issues would matter. It is common for a victim who reports to the police to not really understand what happens after that - the system can be unwieldy, confusing, and opaque to those looking into it from the outside. But the book tried to be more than that - it tried to tie Romy's experience into a larger narrative of the town (and culture) itself, and because of that, I feel like those details became important, and they were never clearly conveyed.


Overall, there was more good than bad, and I do recommend it, especially for the convincing depiction of Romy's state of mind, which I thought was heartbreaking and real.