A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
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