Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rage Against Preconceived Notions

Rage (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 2)
Rarely do we read a book so raw with emotions that it leaves you speechless by the time you read the last page. Jackie Morse Kessler accomplishes this effortlessly. She knows how to bring a reader into the most painful lives of teens who are suffering from eating disorders, bullying, cutting, etc. With her second book in the Horsemen of the Apocalypse series, Rage, she has a cutter who has been bullied to the brink of sanity, become War, the Rider of the Red Horse.

Missy slept with Adam and he saw her for who she was- a cutter. He immediately dumped her and told everyone about her scars. Now she is tormented even worse than before. Now they all call her Cutterslut and other horrible names. Missy's only means of control over her own life is to cut. She can't control the pain she feels every day at home and at school, but she can control the blade. When Adam invites her to a party, Missy reluctantly agrees to go, but she goes to show them all they don't bother her. When Adam is uncharacteristically kind and kisses her, she forgets all her anger and pain. She follows him upstairs and takes off her clothes for him. Just as she does, he calls for everyone to come in. It is then, in a flurry of cell phones and cameras, that Missy's life changes forever. With her secret out and her picture and video all over the web, she chooses to accept Death's offer to become War... and her first stop is the party.

As War, Missy creates havoc in the party, making everyone's aggression and anger seethe to the top. When she leaves, she is conflicted about what she has done and what she might have done if Adam had been there. She starts to go out into her world to do the job of War, but she sees her destruction doesn't just hurt adult soldiers- there are innocent women and children there too. She fights the will of War, but Famine and Death explain the balance to her. When there is no balance, like when Pestilence took some time off, the result can be like the Black Death- centuries of consequences. When she returns to school and feels the consequences of her own bullies, she is torn between wanting to punish everyone in the building to knowing there are innocent people who don't deserve to suffer her wrath. But can Missy keep War until control in order to restore the balance?

This is a very dark and important story. When we consider bullicide (suicide as a result of severe bullying) and school violence like Columbine, it is vital that we look at the emotions of the victim. The pain, the humiliation, and the rage they feel is overwhelming. The result is often violence, either towards themselves or others. While critics attacked this book for being "too violent" and "too graphic" about a cutter, I would like to know why they don't acknowledge the bullying. If they are so worried about the cutting, perhaps an honest conversation about the impetus for the cutting is where prevention should start. Yes, this was a dark book, but it is impossible to write a book about such vicious bullying without it being real, raw, emotional, and dark.

I am bowled over by these books, but I will admit they might be too much for a more sensitive young adult. As parents and teachers, we know the type of student who can handle a series like this one. The beauty of this author is she doesn't take prisoners. She doesn't hold back or "write in code" to protect delicate sensibilities. She lays it on the line. And if you don't like it, then perhaps you should do something about stopping the behaviors that cause this kind of situation. perhaps it is time to do something about the bullies in order to save the victims.

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