When I decided to devote a week to All the Rage, I knew that I wanted to spend a day going more in-depth of how this book made me feel and what it made me think. (Warning: this is probably going to be long.)
First, you should know that I was a sociology and gender studies major, so I am generally very in tune with the idea of rape culture and victim blaming and similar things. I don’t think that you can or should be blamed for being raped, regardless of what you were wearing or what you were drinking or any decisions you made that night.
But because this is a Courtney Summers book, the heroine isn’t particularly likable. I think that this is actually a brilliant choice, because I would think things like, “Quit drinking, Romy; this is a bad idea” and then I’d stop, horrified. Because she’s a teenager at a party, and they tend to drink. You should be able to behave in a normal way at a party without worrying that you’re going to be taken advantage of or raped. (For most of the book, we get the story in bits and pieces, so while I did say that “she was apparently raped” while discussing it with my friend Bekki, it was because I knew that something horrible had happened while Romy was drunk, but I didn’t know if it was rape or if things had just gone a lot farther than she had wanted. It was definitely clear either way that Romy was in no shape to give any kind of consent.
Second, the thing that really struck me with this book was a throwaway comment (that is later repeated) from Romy when she learns that her boyfriend Leon’s sister is going to have a baby: “I hope it’s not a girl.” The thought startles her so much that she initially gives it more thought and then definitively agrees that she doesn’t want it to be a girl.
The statement startled me, too (I have a niece and two goddaughters) and then as I thought about it, I agreed. I worry about them in a way that I don’t have to worry about my godson. Life is not easy for anyone, but it is definitely harder for girls.
After the baby is born (and it is a girl), there’s an absolutely wrenching scene where Romy holds her and then finds herself wanting to apologize to her for the life she knows that Ava will probably have. Even if she doesn’t suffer any type of sex assault (although since one in four women will—and that number is probably only going to increase), she will have to navigate the world in a different and harder way than boys will. I know that we are all aware of the ideas of how having sex in high school if you’re a girl makes you a slut (sometimes even beyond high school) and those ideas probably aren’t going to go away, either.