Review: RAGE (Riders of the Apocalypse, #2) by Jackie Morse Kessler

Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Others In Series: Hunger (available), Loss (coming soon), Breath (coming soon)
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 213
Original Release Date: April 4, 2011
ISBN#: 9780547445281
FTC Disclaimer: Received ARC from publisher for the purpose of an honest review.
Rage (rj)
a. Violent, explosive anger.
b. A fit of anger.
2. Furious intensity, as of a storm or disease.
3. A burning desire; a passion.
intr.v. raged, rag·ing, rag·es
1. To speak or act in violent anger
2. To move with great violence or intensity
3. To spread or prevail forcefully
 Missy has a burning desire to relieve an overwhelming pain. This is a book about channeling pain into purpose. Missy moves against herself with violence and intensity. This is a book about finding balance, and gaining control. This is a book about rage, and a book about hope.
Melissa Miller is a high schooler with a few good friends, a love of soccer, an ex boyfriend she’s still got mixed feelings about, and a family that loves her, but doesn’t quite understand her. Sounds pretty typical, right? But Missy also has a secret. When things in her life start going very wrong, she can’t control the crushing feelings and pain she has. She creates an outlet for the pressure with a tool she keeps inside a lock box in her closet. Missy cuts herself. She has a driving need to release the toxic pain she feels by shredding her skin and bleeding out the hurt. What Missy doesn’t realize is that one mistake following a particularly horrible evening will change her life forever. One mistake will bring Death to her door. And Death will bring War.
I have to admit, this book was icredibly hard for me to read. I have never considered making the choices Missy made. I have never thought that doing myself harm would somehow make any situation better, or make me feel like I was in control of something that was spinning out of control. I can say, however, that I am so very grateful to Jackie for writing this book, and for the insight it provides for someone like me. Missy appears to be, for all intents and purposes, a normal girl. A “goth girl” with some attitude, maybe, but a normal girl all the same. What makes her so compelling is her struggle to fight through some pretty overwhelming circumstances. The choices she makes, and the results of those choices, are very real for an alarmingly high number of people.
What most people will never experience, however, is discovering a Cobain-ified Death, from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in their room, offering them the mantle of War! This story builds itself around Missy’s compulsion to harm herself, and her crash course in War’s desire to cause harm in others. Can she learn the control she needs to start healing herself? Can she become the embodiment of an ancient evil, and do good? Jackie continues the amazing storytelling from the first book in this series, Hunger, and creates in depth characters that pull you into the story. We meet the new Famine and are introduced to Pestilence. Both adding some perspective on Missy’s battle with War. This is not a happy book. Oh, to be sure, there are some fantastic one liners and clever banter that break up and brighten some of the darker points in the story. Death is always good for equal parts snarky wit and enlightenment. It IS a book, however, that will make you care. Your heart will break when Missy’s humiliated (trust me, I’ve never wanted to punch a fictional character so much IN MY LIFE) and it will swell with pride as she learns how to create a better life for herself.

 Jackie did a lot of research for this book, and part of the proceeds from sales will be donated to a resource and support group for individuals dealing with depression, self harm, and suicidal feelings. To Write Love On Her Arms was created to help people who find themselves in situations similar to Missy’s. I was lucky enough to get in touch with Whitney, from TWLOHA to ask her about Rage. What she thought of the book, and how Missy’s experiences were portrayed. Below is her brief review of the book, and a few questions she was kind enough to answer for me.

Rage is a short novel, but it is full of so much emotion and weight.  It is heavy, and reading it feels real in a way that the reader shares the weight Missy carries on her shoulders.  This book definitely packs a punch, and I think it will spark meaningful and important conversations about depression, self-injury, and suicide.  For people who have never experienced self-injury or do not understand how someone could want to hurt themselves, I think this book is eye-opening and raw.  However, for people who have dealt with or are currently struggling with self-injury, this book could be triggering, and I would recommend it be shared with that disclaimer out of respect for each person’s story and journey to know hope and healing in their own lives.  It is so clear that Jackie cares very much about people who are hurting, and I am grateful for writers like her who are trying their best to break the silence surrounding issues such as these.

Q:  How do you feel Missy’s story relates to the experience you’ve had with TWLOHA? Is her story typical of the people you’ve been involved with? (Before the supernatural element was introduced, of course.)
A: Missy’s story is definitely relevant to the experience I’ve had with TWLOHA.  When I found out about TWLOHA in 2006, I had a new friend who had just confided in me about her self-injury.  It was an awesome experience to share TWLOHA with her, and seeing her find healing has been amazing.  Working at TWLOHA, I have the privilege to hear stories on a daily basis, but Missy’s story is not the only kind of story we hear.  We hear lots of other things, too:  people who don’t know what to do with the feelings they’re having, people who have tried to end their lives or are thinking about it, people who have lost the ones they love to addiction or suicide, people who want to help others and people who want to help themselves.  Sometimes those stories include self-injury, and sometimes not.  Sometimes they are about rape or drugs or friends or accidents.  All of them are valuable, and all of them have some kind of pain.  We are honored to be trusted with these stories, and we present hope in whatever ways we can.  
Q: What is the most important message readers should walk away with after reading Rage?
A: I think the most important thing readers should keep from the book is Missy’s journey to self-acceptance.  Her self-acceptance is what allows her to overcome her need to self-injure and allows her to be in control of her own story.  She is broken and hurting, but she is also beautiful and strong and such a fighter.  I think when people are in the grittiness of struggle, they forget the ways they are fighting, the fact that they are still alive despite everything that has fought against them.  Missy realizes her own strength, and I believe that is such a huge part of learning what it means to live a healthy life.
Q: You mentioned there may be “triggers” for people dealing with self injury. How can we identify the line between honest reality in storytelling, and too much reality?
A: This is a difficult line to walk.  We, as an organization, do not believe something is less valuable because it is triggering, but we choose not to post most things if they are triggering to respect our audience and whatever they may be dealing with when they visit our site.  When I spoke with Jackie about this, I mentioned how great this story is at helping people who do not understand self-injury at all come to a place where they actually see what it is like to struggle with self-injury.  However, it is triggering in some ways, such as the way Missy’s lockbox is spoke of with delicate reverence and that there is a ritual she follows.  So, the line between honest storytelling and triggers in this case is mostly about language–it’s not what is told but how it is told.  I want to make sure I’m clear, though–I think Rage is a story worth telling, and I am glad to have read it, but it is not a book I would recommend to a recovering self-injurer and especially not to someone who is currently struggling. 
Q:  What would you suggest as some alternatives for people who feel the kind of pressure Missy does, and believe self injury is the best outlet for relief?
A: This is actually a question we get a lot from people who write to us who have or are struggling with self-injury.  We encourage them to find healthy ways to cope that do not bring harm to themselves or others.  As examples, we encourage people to write, paint, draw, or something else creative, as well as suggesting running and exercise as a physical expression of what is inside them.  Self-injury is sometimes a way for people to release the negativity that feels trapped inside.  So, we encourage them to find other ways to release those emotions without hurting themselves or anyone else.  We also emphasize the importance of allowing another person to walk with them through their pain, to trust another person with their struggles.  It can be a friend, a teacher, a school counselor, a family member, or a mental health professional.  It is such an important step in healing.

Q:  How can people find / access TWLOHA resources in their community? If there isn’t any local resource, how would you start something?
A: On our website, we post resources for every issue we address.  Most of them are nationally recognized organizations, and some of them are counseling centers.  We try to connect people to help in whatever ways we can.  If someone doesn’t find what they need on our website, we always encourage them to search around in their communities–for high school students, we suggest the guidance office; for college students, the counseling center; and for adults, a local mental health organization or treatment center.  Help is out there–it may just take a harder look to find.

You can find out more about To Write Love On Her Arms HERE.

As much as Hunger brought to light some unpleasant truths about eating disorders, Rage exposes us to the seemingly incomprehensible choices of those dealing with the kind of pain that literally tears them apart. It’s an important book. I am proud to have shared the journey with Jackie, and with Missy.

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