6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Rage

Author: Jackie Morse Kessler

Genre: Fantasy / YA

Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Publication date: April 2011
Paperback: 228 pages

Stand alone or series: Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 2

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.

How did I get this book: Review copy via Netgalley.com

Why did I read this book: I am a fan of Jackie Kessler’s writing and I really enjoyed Hunger, the first book in this series.


Rage is the second book in Jackie Kessler’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse series and the follow up to Hunger. As with its predecessor it follows the protagonist of the story as she becomes the new horseperson of the Apocalypse and learns the rules of office. This time, the protagonist is one Missy Miller, a self-cutter who one day cuts too deep and is given a choice by Death, a (mostly) agreeable chap who looks like Kurt Cobain, to become the new embodiment of War (whose previous incarnation was killed in the line of duty – or sort of – in the previous book) or die. And despite what people might think, dying is the last thing Missy wants and she becomes War.

The first thing that springs to mind and needs to be addressed is how once again, Jackie Kessler takes a complicated topic (self-harming) and handles it really well, at least as far as I can see (I do not know anything about the subject other than reading about it online). Missy reads as a complex, sympathetic character whose self-harming (she is a “cutter”) habit is about coping with her overwhelming feelings. I thought that was really interesting – the way that it was portrayed as a mechanism to take control over her emotional pain by self-inflicting a different sort of pain. The author doesn’t shy away from the topic and there are some pretty graphic scenes here. Perhaps it is interesting to note though that the scene that caused me to flinch and gasp was actually the most emotionally distressing scene in the book, when an ex-boyfriend is tremendously cruel to Missy. At that point in the story it was easy to see and understand the weight of Missy’s emotions. And just like with Hunger, when the time comes to end the story, there is no easy cop-out or resolution especially relating to Missy’s emotional problems. There is a hint of progress, of getting there but clearly demonstrating that the journey has only but began.

The second thing to address is how Jackie Kessler’s writing seems only to be improving with time and I love her prose, whether she is writing funny moments or terribly sad ones. As an example:

Missy followed Death out of her room, feeling as if she were traveling in a dream. Around her, the world was out of sync – she heard her parents in their bedroom, the sounds of their love-making tinny and peppered with static, the photographs on the wall had faded into background floaters, their colors leeched away. Missy’s head buzzed not unpleasantly, as she noticed these oddities. It made sense that the mundane trappings of the appeared dim and out of reach; by accepting the Sword, Missy had become more real, perhaps even Surreal. It wasn’t that she was alone because no one could relate to her; rather, she had transcended the glamour of the ordinary.

I was possible, she reflected, that the soda she’d had at Kevin’s party had been laced with something exotic and was tripping her fool head off.

Rage is the combination of an “issue” book (without any added preachy elements ) and a Fantasy book. I addressed the first, so how about the latter. Well, here is where I find myself less than thrilled. I did mention in my review of Hunger, that the Fantasy elements of the novel were not explored in depth and I had many questions left unanswered about the four Horsepeople of Apocalypse, their powers and their function. I did appreciate the fact that these stories might well be fables rather than fully developed fantasy. So, bearing that in mind, I tried to approach Rage with different expectations. And although that helped in feeling less disappointed by the lack of world-building details (oh, but how I wished), I was disappointed with how fast the story progressed for all was dealt with in basically two days: from a horrible public humiliation, to almost-dying, to becoming a horseperson of the Apocalypse, to being lost at it, to fully understanding what it means. It just didn’t feel right.

Still, I devoured the book in one sitting and overall it is a pretty cool story. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next with Pestilence and Death

(Also, please note: A portion of proceeds of this book will be donated to the organization To Write Love On Her Arms.)

Notable quotes/Parts: There is one scene at this guy’s party when Missy’s ex humiliates her completely and in public and it is one of the most horrible things (in terms of emotional distress) I have ever read in my life. I stared at the pages in disbelief. It was a very powerful scene including what follows with Missy’s reaction to it.

Additional Thoughts: Come back later today for a guest post by Jackie Morse Kessler and a chance to win AWESOME THINGS.

Rating: 6 – Good

Reading next: Sleight of Hand by Peter S Beagle


Buy the Book:

Ebook available for nook

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  • Carina (Reading Through Life)
    April 5, 2011 at 7:36 am

    I agree with your critique of how fast things progress – it just seems so quick, even more so than in Hunger. Having said that, though, I really loved this book. I had a few friends in high school (and even now, as an adult) who self-injured – including myself – and I could really identify with Missy. It was powerful even with its flaws.

  • Michelle
    April 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    One of the things I love most about these books is the unique concept for an “issue” book. Thus far I haven’t felt either was preachy and for the most part they’ve been educational and I would imagine helpful for teens who are struggling. Neither are without flaws (as you’ve mentioned) but all in all both have been interesting reads.

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  • Anonymous
    October 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

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