All the Rage by Courtney Summers | Book Review

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All the Rage

Rating: ★★★

All the Rage is the… third?… book about rape culture I’ve read so far in 2019. In some ways, it’s the best of those books. Summers knows how to pack an emotional punch that will leave you spinning. But in other ways it’s seriously lacking. This book is praised as being an must-read about rape culture but if not for the marketing I wouldn’t have put it in that category at all.

Goodreads Synopsis: 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. 

BookishBlond Reviews: 

I love Courtney Summers’ writing. I often lack an emotional connection to characters/books but Summers is an author that knows how to make you feel. This book will make your heart ache. I was so emotionally invested in Romy’s story that it hurt. Which is why I’m giving this book three stars instead of two.

But.

I don’t appreciate being emotionally manipulated by books.

Okay, just look at the first sentence of the Goodreads synopsis: “The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact.” Read the synopsis and you think you’re getting a book about a rape survivor, kind of like Speak. Many reviews even compare this book (favorably) with SpeakBut it’s nothing like that.

First of all, Kellan Turner, the rapist, is not even a character in this book. His name is literally only mentioned two or three times. He is not a character in this book. Few things annoy me more than dishonest marketing about books, and this feels so dishonest. Furthermore, rape is barely even mentioned in this book. Romy never talks about being raped. She never “heals” or “comes to terms” or whatever it was she was supposed to do. Romy struggles with bullying and managing her tormentors, not the aftermath of rape.

This book is a murder mystery. I feel emotionally manipulated because (1) the book is marketed as being about rape culture/rape survivors and (2) Romy’s identity as a rape survivor is used to make readers feel sorry for Romy and to justify her actions.

This book was all emotion and seriously lacking in characters and plot.

Even with all the feels, I did not like Romy as a character. She’s bitter and mean, and if not for being a rape survivor, her behavior wouldn’t make any sense at all. I understand that a rape survivor may feel numb, but Romy never talks about her emotions or about the rape. The reader is supposed to keep this background knowledge in mind, but it comes from the book’s description, not from Romy. There is this weird emotional disconnect where Romy is being mean to her mom or to her love interest, and the reader is supposed to make the connection that Romy is only being awful because of the rape, but the rape is never even discussed? It’s bizarre.

Romy aside, none of the other characters here did anything for me. I did really like Romy’s mom and stepdad, but everyone else was lacking. I didn’t understand why the love interest was so into Romy, especially since she was so mean to him. Romy’s (ex)friend, Penny, doesn’t feel like a real character. Her disappearance drives the book’s main plot line, but we don’t know anything about her. The mean girls at school who bully Romy are more non-characters. Who were they?

Summers had so many opportunities to take a unique stance on rape culture, but she never explored the topic. She stuck with the same tropes we see in other books that explore it – the outsider/loner girl who isn’t believed and the popular rapist who seemingly gets away with it. I was intrigued by a few things – Romy and Penny’s emails, the lipstick/nail polish, the rapist coming back to town… but Summers never goes deeper than the surface.

I also didn’t really like Summers playing around with the timeline. I think the story would have been better if told linearly instead of jumping around so much. The book doesn’t make sense at times.

And the ending? What? Everything is just… wrapped up nicely? Just like that??

This feels more like a rant than a book review, but I just had to get that off my chest. I read this book in one sitting – it’s an enjoyable read – but I’m still pissed off about the marketing.

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WWW Wednesday | May 16, 2019

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking On a World of Words. Every Wednesday, the posters discuss 3 Ws:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

This is my first time participating in WWW Wednesday! I’m a student, and unfortunately, I haven’t been doing as much reading as I would like to the past few months. But it’s summertime at last! I’ll be working full time, but I know I’ll have more time to read again, and I can’t wait to catch up.

What are you currently reading?

Blood and Money: The Classic True Story…On Immunity: An InoculationThe Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Perfect NannyPerfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncen…Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Miss…The Butterfly Mosque

  1. Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson: I started this book on a plane last week, on my way to visit my family. Unfortunately… I left my Kindle at my parents’ house, so I won’t be reading more of this book until my Mom mails my Kindle to me. I thought I was smart to charge my Kindle before heading to the airport, but I ended up leaving it plugged in to the wall. I am so irritated with myself! Have you ever done anything like that? Anyway… I was really enjoying this book. It’s a fantastic true crime piece, and I can’t wait to get back into it!
  2. On Immunity by Eula Biss: This book had the same fate as Blood and Money! And I was really enjoying this one, too. I’ll be working in public health this summer, and I know that a big part of my work will be about vaccination policies. I picked this book up because I thought it would be a nice little primer about vaccines, but it’s more like a collection of essays about the author’s decision to vaccinate her son. We’ll see…
  3. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski: I am LOVING this book! It’s a collection of short stories about the Witcher (who you might know from the video games). I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series!
  4. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani: I picked this short little book up after I listened to a NYT Book Review podcast hailing it as one of the best novels of 2018. I’m honestly not that impressed so far. It’s creepy, I guess, but slow.
  5. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller: Okay, I’ve been working on this book for months. It’s so long, and it really doesn’t have to be. I almost wish I’d chosen a different book about the John Benet Ramsey case.
  6. Playing Big by Tara Mohr: I read the first few chapters of this book a couple months ago and haven’t felt like reading more, but it’s still on the stack of books on my nightstand, so I guess I’m technically still reading it. It’s not for me.
  7. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson: I LOVE G. Willow Wilson, and I love reading about world religions, so this book is doubly amazing! I really should have finished this by now, though.

What did you recently finish reading?

Public Health Law in a Nutshell by James G. Hodge Jr.Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. VaughanWhere Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

  1. Public Health Law in a Nutshell by James G. Hodge, Jr.: I read this book in anticipation of starting my new job! It’s an excellent introduction to the field. I’ll absolutely be referencing it at work all summer.
  2. Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Saga is one of the best things I have ever read. Period. This wasn’t my favorite book in the series, but it was still amazing.
  3. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley: Fantastic YA novel. You can read my full review here!

What do you think you’ll read next?

I wish I knew! My TBR is currently 1,696 books deep. It increases almost every day as I hear about new books I want to read. Do you have that problem, too? However, I think I have my next reads narrowed down:

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine WarrenThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana AliThe Weight of Our Sky

  1. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire: I love the Wayward Children series, but I’m been low-key dreading reading this book because I didn’t love the last book in the series. We’ll see.
  2. The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle: I’ve been dying to read this book. I love horror movies, and The Conjuring is such a fun movie… I can’t wait to read about the real couple who inspired the film! The reviews are mixed, which worries me, but I’m staying positive!
  3. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan: Please give me all the LGBTQ YA novels. The reviews are mixed on this one, too, but I finally got my copy from the library, and I’m excited to read it.
  4. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf: The reviews for this book are AMAZING. Another library book I can’t wait to read!

This is such a fun tag, and I’m glad that I got to participate this week! I can’t wait to read everyone else’s responses. Happy reading!

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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley | Book Review

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Where Things Come Back Rating: ★★★★

Does John Corey Whaley know how to write!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption “explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life.” Kirkus Reviews

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

BookishBlond Reviews:

This book is such a treat to read, primarily because of Whaley’s masterful plot construction. The plot is split – one story follows Cullen Witter as he navigates the summer between his junior and senior year of high school, following his cousin’s fatal overdose and his younger brother’s disappearance. The second story first follows a young missionary in Africa, whose eventual return to the States triggers a series of events that’s larger than his own story. At first, the two plotlines seem completely unrelated, but when Whaley does end up bringing them together… ooooohh boy. I didn’t predict it at all. Nothing surprises me, but the conclusion of Where Things Come Backmade my jaw drop in the best way.

Even so, I’m torn between giving this book three and four stars. In addition to the plot construction, I think the strongest aspect of this book is the small-town setting. Cullen’s story is set in rural Arkansas, but it really could be any small American town. The poverty and the hopelessness will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a small town. Cullen’s resignation that he, like his parents, will be stuck in his hometown forever rang true.

But I felt like Whaley’s characters were weak. Cullen reminded me too much of John Green’s typical hero – awkward, melancholy, sensitive, and very irritating. Cullen has an annoying habit of breaking into third person, i.e., “when one is doing X, he will think Y…” that is absolutely infuriating, especially when the technique is used in every chapter. Cullen also imagines those around him as zombies, which I presume is a coping mechanism after going through the trauma of a family member’s death and another’s disappearance. I guess I don’t mind this, but it was annoying to read so many zombie passages, especially since they weren’t exactly framed as separate occurrences from Cullen’s real life. Maybe Whaley was going for some magical realism?

The other characters – especially the girls – are beginning to bleed together in my memory. Not only does everyone have a similar name, but their voices are similar as well.

did enjoy this book’s quirks – The Book of Enoch, a holy book not included in the Christian Bible, is a prominent feature. I loved that. I also enjoyed the mythology of the Lazarus woodpecker. These topics lurk in the background of the book’s plot, and it’s just delightful. They’re unique, and I really appreciate Whaley’s decision to introduce them.

Overall, I am impressed with this book as a debut novel. Whaley knows how to construct a plot! But his characters could use some work. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to any of his characters, but I have no doubt that his characterization will improve as he continues to write. I will definitely be reading more of his novels in the future!

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