06 April 2011

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

As a sequel to Hunger in Kessler's Four Horsemen series, Rage is a perfect counterpoint. Where Hunger was about anorexia, Rage is self-mutilation. This scared me at first, because it would be easy to make a second book by using the first as a template, fleshing out Missy exactly like Lisa, making their issues the same and their coping only slightly different. Instead, though, Kessler chose to craft a new book that was cleverly related to the first and yet still individualized. This master plan works brilliantly. Where Lisa had a loving boyfriend who breaks up with her out of concern for her well-being Missy has a boyfriend who runs from her disease in fear and then sets out to make her life more difficult. And this theme of reflection and distortion between the two books occurs over and over: from Lisa's body image and Missy's cat to the way they take up their offices as horsemen. Best of all, though, is how Missy's disease of self-mutilation is presented. Instead of being "like anorexia, but with knives" like I feared, Rage's story of self-mutilation is unique and really helps you to understand that, while the underlying issue of both self-mutilation and anorexia is control and the lack of it that the victims feel, the symptoms present in a way that is not only unique to self-mutilation but unique to Missy and her issues. And her way of figuring out how to deal with those issues instead of being consumed by the horseman WAR is beautifully unique as well. Missy is not the only good thing about this book, though. DEATH provides a much better counterpoint in this book, serving as less of a source of exposition and more as an obstacle that could help or hinder Missy (although I am somewhat worried about the constant Cobain references with death). FAMINE, too, is fleshed out as a more realistic character, and we see PESTILENCE for the first time. The world of the horsemen makes more sense, and it works as a vehicle to understand more about the pain people feel and how to help them with it.

I was provided with a free copy of this book through netgalley, but I picked up my pre-orderd hard copy this morning!

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