Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

After reading and totally loving Hunger (book #1 in the Riders of the Apocalypse series) going ahead and buying Rage seemed like a total no-thought-required decision. With their glossy covers depicting interesting and semi-abstract images of the items held by each horsemen's office, these are books that I desperately want on my shelf, rather then my kindle.

Of course, even more important then the lovely covers is the lovely writing. Continuing from the first book is the top notch blend of real world issues--in this case self harm--with an intriguing and fairly original paranormal component. This once again succeeded in delivering a unique story that had me unable to put the book down from start to finish.

Yet I seem to be giving you the sum of my review before it has even begun. Lets slow down a little and talk about Rage in detail...

(Summary from GoodReads)
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.

The first thing that I want to praise Rage for is the balance that Jackie Morse Kessler strikes between being honest about her (real world) subject matter while doing so in a way that isn't going to send readers running for the hills. Self harm / "cutting" is a delicate issue and certainly not a pretty one, yet it is something that many people deal with in real life. I like how she got to the heart of why, how this story, as entertaining as it was, had such sensitivity to Missy's reasoning. It's really, really hard to balance the real and the paranormal within a single novel, but again Jackie Morse Kessler has managed this difficult feat with an easy grace that alludes many stories.

The next thing I feel is worth saying is that Rage feels like a much more personal story--too Missy, not Jackie, just so we're clear--then Hunger did for Lisa. What I mean by this is that the aspects and manifestations of War that are shown in the novel are shown on a much more local scale. You aren't going to find Missy stirring up crap in (insert war ravaged country of choice here). I thought this was a wise move for two reasons: (1) It allowed Missy to be a sympathetic character. Since the "attacks" are on people who have wronged her, whom we see wrong her, I was able to still cheer for her. And (2) this prevents Rage from being outdated or, worse yet, from being dragged into any type of unwanted political scandal that could land anyone in hot water. 

I'll also say I loved Missy and Death's interactions, but I'm going to get to that more below, so I'll just stick with that statement for now. 

I absolutely loved Missy. She is strong yet flawed, passionate yet restrained and just all around complex and totally memorable. There were moments that I wanted to cheer for her and moments when I just wanted to give her a gigantic hug. Missy is a very 'real' character. She could say and do things that weren't always right, but for the large majority I didn't find myself going "You idiot! Why did you do that?". It is a testament to how good Jackie Morse Kessler is as a writer that I could stick with Missy through every step of her journey without finding serious fault with her, especially considering that the situations she faced were often things I have no way of directly connecting with. 

Death, yet again, was his awesomely charming self. I really, really love (heck, probably am *in* love with...) Jackie's version of Death and for someone who is naturally drawn to "death" characters in fiction, I'd like to think of that as high praise. His sense of humor, his insightfulness and the overall quirky 'beat' to his character makes him steal pretty much every scene he's in. 

The rest of the cast did what they were there to do and did it well, but this series is definitely not a "cast" production. It is, at least from reading these two books, very much about Death, the person chosen to be a horsemen, and that character's growth from the experience. It's not that the other characters are "bad", but rather that, essentially, this isn't their show to run. 

Missy + Death = Awww! I totally loved the connection between these two. As with the romance that happened in Hunger, the romance in Rage is not center stage, but rather a subtle and elegant thing that compliments what is going on, rather then overshadowing it. There is an interesting and unique, albeit fittingly quirky, chemistry between these characters and while the ending we are left with certainly isn't tied together with a bow (which wouldn't work for this series anyway) I found it satisfying, hopeful and endearing. 

I thought Hunger was an excellent beginning to a new series and I can gladly tell you that personally I loved Rage even more. This was a book that held my attention from start to finish and I would eagerly recommend this to fans of paranormal or contemporary YA, provided they are comfortable with the boundries of their genre(s) of choice blurring together. A rare treat, Rage comes highly recommended! 


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