Missy can control a lot of things. She can control how she looks. She can block a soccer player from scoring a goal. Using a razor blade on her own skin, she can even determine how much pain—or comfort—she’s in. But her sense of control is fading. After being humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, she loses control completely; she cuts too deep. Then Missy becomes War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Jackie Morse Kessler approaches the subject of self-mutilation in a unique way that works sometimes and doesn’t work at other times. It works because Rage is so completely different. Transitioning from a razor blade to the large and more powerful blade of War—it is a captivating concept. It is especially great because Kessler ties self-mutilation and War the Horseman together so well; the connection between the two is shown in the rage that people feel when they are powerless against nature, other people, and their emotions. The writing is so strong that the feeling of being overwhelmed is almost palpable. I truly enjoyed reading from this unique perspective. With Missy, I learned how small actions (whether it be bumping into someone accidentally but angrily or causing a civil war between two groups of people) can control the bigger picture. Control and acceptance triumph.
Though I enjoyed reading about Missy’s journey and self-discovery, Missy is also the reason the story doesn’t completely work for me. I can’t understand her. Why did she begin cutting herself in the first place? After the disgusting and horrible humiliation she goes through at the hands of her peers, the reader understands Missy’s self-mutilation, but her reasons for starting in the first place aren’t adequately explained. When did Missy start cutting? With her cat’s death? While reading, I guessed the pressure from her family’s silent expectation and their inattentiveness were the reasons.
Two characters I did enjoy tremendously were Death and Missy’s horse, Ares. Death, ironically, lightened up the serious issue of self-mutilation with humor. Ares, in a way, did the same. They were fascinating, and I think they stole the spotlight from Missy many times.
Overall, I enjoyed Rage. The story and concept kept me turning the page, but I expected more out of the main character.
Samantha Bagood is a freelance writer and designer and a student at Appalachian State University. You can find her at www.samanthabagood.com. She is currently writing her first novel.