Today, Ollie had the pleasure of chatting with the super cool Courtney Summers, author of ALL THE RAGE and the brains behind #ToTheGirls.
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Kellan raped her but because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by her former friends, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.
After a school-wide party, Romy wakes up on the side of road with no recollection of the night before and her former best friend Penny has gone missing. Fearing the worst has happened again, Romy realizes she must speak up about her past or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now—but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.
ALL THE RAGE examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?
Ollie with Papercuts Podcast: Courtney, welcome to Papercuts Podcast! We’re here today talking about ALL THE RAGE.
Ollie: Let’s talk about Romy. How did you two first meet? What makes Romy the perfect character to tell this story?
Courtney Summers: Romy has been in my head since around 2009 or 2010. That’s when the idea for the book started to spark, and that’s the reason I think she was the perfect character to narrate All the Rage; she haunted me for years in a way no other character has.
Ollie: What sets Romy’s story apart from other YA novels dealing with sexual assault, like SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson or Patty Blount’s SOME BOYS?
CS: There are so many variables involved in writing that every story out there has something that makes it unique, even if themes and subject matter overlap.
But this is a really interesting question because it could be read to imply that there are so many novels about sexual violence against girls, I need to make a case for my own to be picked up over the rest. All the Rage is not in competition with novels like Speak or Some Boys or any other books that tackle similar subject matter. It’s joining those novels in a larger conversation about that subject matter. Instead of asking what sets Romy’s story apart, maybe we should think about the ongoing necessity of stories like Romy’s and what that says about us as a culture.
Ollie: Because none of us grew up in bubble, I know that every author has influences beyond the obvious! What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?
CS: All the Rage took so long to write, it’s hard to remember all those initial sparks, but I think one of its earliest influences was the music video for ‘Spark’ by Tori Amos, which tells an incredibly unsettling story of a woman trying to escape her captor.
Ollie: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?
CS: I had so many favorites—I loved and still love the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison, Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, Girl by Blake Nelson, I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier . . . some current favorite contemporary YA novels of mine are Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz and Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt.
Ollie: I have been really interested in reading Pointe, so thanks for the reminder! All right, so, I’m fascinated with how authors decide on a book’s title. What is the story behind the title ALL THE RAGE? It seems like it might be a bit of a double entendre.
CS: I was lucky because All the Rage just sort of arrived as a title! It was perfect because yes, you’re right—it holds different meanings. It’s about literal rage and it’s also about how terrifyingly pervasive rape culture is.
Ollie: As the woman behind the Twitter campaign #ToTheGirls on 4/14, first let me extend a huge “thank you!” from us here at Papercuts. What did it feel like to have such an important hashtag go viral? How can female-identifying persons continue to be part of this campaign today?
CS: Thank you so much! It was an incredible feeling to watch #ToTheGirls go viral. Seeing everyone come out with messages of positivity was so heartening. There are many ways we can support and empower girls in our personal and professional lives. Continuing the campaign on a day-to-day level means taking and making opportunities to encourage girls, to listen to and support them, and to let them know they matter, whenever we can.
Ollie: The state of YA has changed a lot in even just the past two or three years. We still have a long way to go, but what is the most positive change you have seen or see coming in the future of YA?
Representation matters. Everyone deserves the chance to see themselves in the pages of the books they read. I also think the ongoing conversations surrounding sexism within the industry is positive because it challenges any conscious and unconscious biases we might have. Both of these examples give us the opportunity to look closer at ourselves and to do better as readers and writers and that can only ever be a good thing.
Ollie: Here at Papercuts Podcast, we’re always looking for positive representations in YA. In a story that centers on exposing the rape culture of today, what does ALL THE RAGE offer for readers looking for teens of color, LGBT youth, or positive friendships between female characters?
CS: All the Rage features a diverse cast of characters and I always make sure to be as true to my characters, and their experiences, as possible. But the book is told from the perspective of a girl who has been raped and is ostracized from her community because of it. Romy is traumatized, angry, hurt and scared and that informs the way she interacts with and perceives the people and the world around her. The relationships Romy develops with other characters often have the potential to be a very positive force in her life and theirs, but her trauma prevents her from embracing them wholly and she causes a lot of hurt because of that. The book also emphasizes the importance of female friendships and of female solidarity—but does so through the eyes of a girl who has experienced the brutal reality of the way our culture pits women against each other.
Ollie: What’s up next for you in YA land? Any pet projects you can tease us about?
CS: I’ve contributed a story to Violent Ends, an anthology out in September. It centers on a school shooting, told from seventeen unique points of view. It’s edited by Shaun Hutchinson and it’s got an incredible line-up of authors and their stories are amazing. I’m so proud to be part of it.
Ollie: All right, last one! If you could spend one day with Romy, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to Romy about her past or her future?
CS: That’s a great question! You know, I think I would leave that up to Romy; instead of telling her what I think she needs to hear about herself, I would want to listen to what she has to say about herself, her past and her future.
Ollie: Thank you very much for chatting with me today, Courtney! And again, from Papercuts Podcast, congratulations on ALL THE RAGE! We look forward to hearing a lot more from you in years to come!
CS: Thank you so much for having me!
Papercuts fans, be sure to check out Courtney Summers at her website CourtneySummers.ca. Or follow her on Twitter @courtney_s. Check out more info on the #ToTheGirls campaign at summerscourtney.tumblr.com/tothegirls.
ALL THE RAGE, published by St. Martin’s Press, is now available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Praise for ALL THE RAGE
“Summers takes victim-shaming to task in this timely story, and the cruelties not only of Romy’s classmates but also the adults she should be able to trust come heartbreakingly to the fore. Romy’s internal monologue is breathy and filled with bitter indignation.” —Booklist
“Rape culture, class prejudice, and bullying are all handled sensitively and powerfully in this novel. Readers will definitely be compelled to find out whether Romy breaks free from her demons or implodes from the pressure.” —Voya Magazine
“All The Rage is a visceral indictment of rape culture and its far-reaching consequences and Romy is an incredibly strong and compelling character. Her story should be shared with both our daughters and our sons.” —Rachel Vincent, New York Times bestselling author of The Unbound series and The Stars Never Rise
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Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.