Saturday, April 9, 2011

RAGE by Jackie Morse Kessler

When I heard a young librarian "book talk" Kessler's HUNGER, I took a chance and ordered both HUNGER and her second novel for teens called RAGE.  I'm happy that I did.

HUNGER grabbed my attention with its unique combination of anorexia and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  It was a powerful book that didn't talk down to teens about a serious issue. 

RAGE has the same Horsemen of the Apocalypse connection, but its focus is on the subject of cutting.  This is another topic that mainly involves teens and young adults.  The real truth behind the frightening behavior will no doubt remain a secret to adults which makes it even more important to let teens know others share their pain.

Missy is dealing with multiple issues - a fairly new breakup with her boyfriend Adam, taunts from classmates about her choice of wardrobe, a younger sister who recently became an annoying freshman, and parents who say they understand but still pile on the pressure.  Relief from all the stress is hidden away in a lockbox in Missy's closet, and the evidence of that relief can be found in the form of scars on her arms, stomach, and inner thighs.  Missy cuts herself with a razor blade.

Just as HUNGER begins, an early scene in RAGE details the visit of a deliveryman arriving at Missy's front door with a mysterious package.  She doesn't understand the veiled message from the deliveryman and really doesn't have time to waste, so she grabs the package, slams the door in his face, and carries the box to her room where she shoves it on the top shelf of her closet.

She receives another visit from the deliveryman she comes to know as Death on the night of Kevin's party.  When Adam approaches her at the party and says he wants to make things right with her again, Missy falls for his ploy and ends up being humiliated in front of everyone at the party.  The only thing she can think about is running home to her lockbox and the release she can gain from the silver blade.

Unknown to her family and friends, Missy hides in her room and cuts and cuts until, fingers slippery with blood, she cuts too deeply and she realizes her life might be over.  That's when she remembers the package stashed on the shelf above her.  When she is finally able to knock it from its perch and open it, she finds out the true purpose Death has for her.

Becoming one of the Four Horsemen "War" gives Missy a glimpse of the power she has hidden within.  As she witnesses the tragedies of the world while on the back of her blood-red steed, she learns she has the power to defeat and deal with the stress and pressure that make her miserable.

Both RAGE and HUNGER by Jackie Morse Kessler are worth adding to your collection.  Her unusual approach to problems faced by teens today might be just the answer for readers dealing with similar issues.

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