Julie Anne Peters, 2009. I really, really want to like Julie Anne Peters’ books. I try again with each new one, but I just can’t do it. Rage follows the pattern of her 2003 Keeping You a Secret: it starts out as an interesting, realistic problem novel, but soon deteriorates into a melodramatic parody of same.
Rage is narrated by Johanna, a good girl in unrequited love, from a distance, with bad-girl Reeve. Reeve has a mysterious and scary home life and has slept with every girl in school. When the two finally get together, Reeve repeatedly warns Johanna that she’s no good for her, and eventually starts hitting her. Johanna’s lies to cover up her unexplained bruises and cuts ring painfully true, but her naïveté does not. She can’t fathom, for example, why Reeve and her twin brother might possibly have two different last names; she can’t even come up with one possibility.
Still, so far so good, as same-sex relationship abuse is tragically real, and it’s great for Peters to point that out to girls who might think that having a girlfriend frees them from the possibility of dating violence. But then the book goes into that melodramatic downward spiral. Reeve’s stepfather stabs her mother, then slits her brother’s throat. It feels tacked-on and wrong; the book didn’t need to go there. The violent relationship between the two girls was enough.