by Jackie Kessler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Rage / 978-0-547-44528-1
When I finished Kessler's superb novel, "Hunger", I remember feeling more than a little sad. I usually don't clamor for sequels, but Kessler's incredible take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - with the role of "Famine" filled by a young woman struggling with anorexia - was so creative and visceral that I wanted badly to hear more about the Horsemen and their personal demons. I knew from the Author's Note, however, that "Hunger" was born out of years of personal experience with eating disorders and I understood that switching to new and unfamiliar territory might be difficult for the author to pull off satisfactorily.
"Rage" drops us into the shoes of the newest horseman, Missy. If "Hunger" brought us a young woman driven by a passion to disappear into nothingness, then "Rage" brings us a young woman who struggles with overwhelming emotions that drive her to cut herself in order to maintain constant control. This approach to a new disordered behavior really allows for growth of the concept outlined in "Hunger": whereas the "Famine" Horseman was defined by her literal and emotional hungers, the "Rage" Horseman isn't defined so much by anger as she is by her overwhelming emotions and her intense fear of losing control. Missy is passionate by nature, but she doesn't understand her passions and she doesn't know how to safely release her pent-up emotions without hurting herself.
A staple of the series so far is the exploration of inner voices that drive people to disordered behaviors. "Hunger" showed us the dangers of the Thin voice, who constantly taunted Lisa with the fantasy of being "thin enough". "Rage" continues this tradition by instilling in Missy the personification of "War". The inner voice of War constantly threatens to overwhelm and consume Missy with unbridled anger and hate, and the longer Missy serves as a Horseman, the more fractured she becomes as she fights against her overpowering emotions and this overpowering inner voice. Once again, the very act of *becoming* a Horseman allows our protagonist to finally put a name to her existing inner struggles and to face them in a meaningful way. Somewhat amusingly, the inner voice of War ALWAYS SPEAKS IN ALL CAPS, which isn't as hard to read as I'd imagined and actually makes a great deal of sense, considering that War is pretty much always yelling, all the time.
I love that Kessler has managed to make such a well-written sequel with similar themes without the result being a cookie-cutter palette-swap with a new psychological struggle. The character of Missy is fascinating, and her story is unique and engaging. "Rage" hauntingly explores the cruelty and bullying that can occur in schools, and is especially instrumental in showing how even "well-meaning" teachers and coaches can sideline problematic students by "labeling" and shunning them rather than getting them meaningful help and treating them as valuable individuals. I thoroughly enjoyed "Rage" and would recommend it strongly to fans of the first. It's wonderful to see an author tackle a subject like cutting with such clarity and sensitivity, and while this visceral novel isn't for the faint of heart, it *is* a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with self-doubt or an identity crisis.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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