Rage: A Love Story

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
Rage: A Love Story Book Poster Image
Intense read about an abusive lesbian relationship.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some educational value in this portrayal of physical abuse in a teen relationship, in this case a lesbian teen relationship.

Positive Messages

This may be about how someone can fall into an abusive relationship and stay, but Johanna has emotional problems before she begins dating Reeve.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Johanna holds down a job and works hard to keep it. She also volunteers at a hospice. She has her own apartment over the garage of the house where her estranged older sister lives. Explanations of why she is so willing to stay in an abusive and dangerous relationship are not clearly revealed until the end of the book.


Uses graphic descriptions of spousal abuse, physical abuse including burning with cigarettes, and sexual abuse of children; the main teen character physically assaults her brother, friends, her girlfriend, and nearly beats her girlfriend's best friend to death. A murder.


Johanna has erotic fantasies about her crush long before they begin dating. Some descriptions of their sexual acts. Johanna's best friend uses her apartment to have sex with her boyfriend on several occasions. Reeve's mother has sex for drugs and drug money.


Language ranges from "f--k," "c--t," "a--tard," "piss," "dick," "bull dyke," "hell," "whore," and "slut."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Johanna and her friends drink; Johanna and Reeve go to a hookah bar. Reeve's mother is addicted to heroin and uses meth. Reeve's mother and her boyfriends heavily abuse alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a very intense book about an abusive lesbian relationship. The main characters, Reeve and her twin brother, live with the daily horrors of all kinds of abuse by their mother's boyfriend. Their mother is an addict and they live in abject poverty.  The violence and language are not gratuitous but they are intense and adult. There are too many serious issues in the book for them all to be treated as sensitively as they could be: The cycle of domestic violence, the traumatic effects on abused children, gender issues, the loss of parents, hospice life, mental health counseling, cutting, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and more are all thrown into the pot. What readers will most likely come away with is a picture of kids growing up in a violent world, where love is hard to find and perhaps impossible to give. The issue of why Johanna, the abused partner in this "romance," puts up with the abuse, and why the abuser takes out her rage on others, is not dealt with until the very end of the book, and then it is wrapped up too neatly.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 14 years old Written bySkyeConfessions February 26, 2012


I personally believe that this book is actually quite educational for children, simply because it shows that life isn't perfect. Everyone wants their child... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byOhaiMorgan August 11, 2010
I loved this book. It was heartbreaking at times, but was funny at the same time. When I was reading this, I didn't want to put the book down. The characte... Continue reading

What's the story?

In RAGE: A LOVE STORY, a high school senior, Johanna, begins her first romance with another senior girl named Reeve. She witnesses Reeve hurting her twin brother, and soon she is being abused too. She thinks that taking the physical abuse without complaining proves her love, especially after she discovers the horrible life that Reeve lives through on a daily basis with her drug-addict mother. Johanna has always been a responsible girl, but her obsession with Reeve costs her a job she really needs, a volunteer job she really loves, and jeopardizes her best friend's life when Reeve becomes jealous of her. Even then, it takes a lot for Johanna to seek help and get her chance to break the cycle of abuse. The book includes a resource list of Web sites and organizations that deal with abuse.

Is it any good?

Written with obvious good intentions, the story sinks beneath its own weight. Rage takes on so many horrors at once that the main story of the romance between two teenage girls is almost lost. The violence and language are undoubtedly true to the situation of the teen twins who live with their addict mother and her abusive boyfriend.  The issues include parental deaths,  estrangement from her only sibling over her sexuality, drug abuse, autism, poverty, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and finally murder.
There are really no clues given about why Johanna tolerates the intense physical abuse, and younger readers may have trouble believing anyone would stay in this relationship. What little redemption there is comes nearly too late: The last 30 pages or so attempts to neatly wrap everything up, with both girls getting therapy and recognizing their problems.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sexuality and gender issues, and their own family values surrounding these issues.

  • Families can also discuss the warning signs of abusive relationships and what to do if a friend or loved one is involved in one. What should you do if a family member is threatened or injured physically? And why is abuse a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship?

  • How has the mother's drug addiction affected her family?

  • How common is child abuse? What are some ways communities work to prevent it from happening?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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