On April 14, 2015, Courtney Summers – YA author extraordinaire – is releasing All The Rage, which is one of my most highly anticipated YA contemporary novels of the year. It’s garnered a lot of positive reviews already, and I have to say it’s totally worth the hype. Today she has graciously agreed to stop by YABookShelf.com to answer a few of my questions about her latest novel, an online marketing campaign for girls on her release day, and post traumatic stress disorder. And it begins in 3-2-1:
YA Book Shelf: All The Rage offers a powerful indictment of rape culture, which is something that girls and women, like Romy, live on a daily basis. What is it about Romy’s town that allows young men to get away with abusing her, Penny, and so many other girls? How does this mirror the experience of young girls and women in North America in general and Canada specifically?
Courtney Summers: Grebe is exactly that: a mirror. It’s a small town reflection of the lack of support shown to victims and survivors of sexual violence that we often see on a much larger, more global scale (that includes North America and Canada, but is not only specific to them). Grebe is a place where small town politics reign supreme, power matters, money and influence matter. This happens a lot locally, nationally, globally–these things are placed above the needs of the girls we should be helping, listening to and seeking justice for.
YABookShelf: Romy internalized the shame and hate that the people of Grebe direct at her to the point where she thinks on several occasions, “I hope it’s not a girl” in regard to Caro and Adam’s unborn child. Why is it impossible for Romy to imagine a future in
which a girl could live without being violated?
CS: Romy lives in a place that continually denies her the support and justice she deserves. As long as she lives in a culture that normalizes and turns a blind eye to sexual violence, it will be very hard for her to hope. But the important thing about Romy is that as difficult as that is for her right now, she wants to be able to. It breaks her
heart that she’s not at a point in her own recovery that she can.
YABookShelf: Everyone in Grebe thinks Romy lied about being sexually assaulted, but afterward, Romy begins lying about a lot of other things to her mom, Leon, and her work colleagues. Who is she trying to protect and does she succeed?
CS: Romy is trying to protect the few good things she feels she has left in her life. She
lives in an incredibly toxic environment and she wants to minimize its reach. She doesn’t want Leon exposed to it. She wants to make it as easy as possible for her mom to go about her day in a town that detests her family. It’s also a form of self-protection. Her peers bully her relentlessly. She’s trying to make safe spaces for herself, with many of the lies she tells. But there are so many external factors working against her, it’s very
hard for her to maintain her defenses.
YABookShelf: Romy’s ritual of applying blood-red nail polish and lipstick, which demonstrates her need for control over something in her life and is a mask hiding the “dead girl” she used to be, is repeated several times. What does it mean that the ritual is the same throughout All The Rage?
CS: Romy also views her lipstick and nail polish as armor, as well as a mask. She’s rigid in her ritual because it’s something that belongs entirely to her and, as you mentioned,
something she can control. The ritual itself is a constant throughout the book, but why
she does it depends on the circumstances that precede it.
YABookShelf: In conjunction with the release of All The Rage, you are launching a social media campaign using the hashtag #ToTheGirls for people to share positive and encouraging words to girls and women they know and those they don’t know on April 14th. What is one thing you hope every girl and woman knows now or will know by the end of this online event?
CS: I’m so excited about this campaign and the enthusiasm and support its received so far! I hope any girl watching the campaign will see a message that’s exactly what she needs to hear at that exact moment. I hope that inspires her to send out her own message to other girls. Most of all, I hope it helps girls feel like they matter and their stories matter.
YABookShelf: In the news, I’ve read a lot of stories detailing the secondary PTSD that first responders and therapists face from seeing and hearing the experiences of the people they help. As an author who writes stories with difficult subject, I’m sure that you receive a lot of reader responses that speak to their own experiences with trauma and how your characters speak to them, which is a privilege, but also must be hard to read on some days. What, if anything, do you do to protect yourself?
CS: It is a privilege. It means a lot to me that readers trust me with their stories and secrets and that they feel comfortable enough to reach out. It’s important for me to acknowledge their strength in doing so and then I try to direct them to resources that will help them (as I’m not qualified to give out professional advice). As for me, I try to compartmentalize all different aspects of my life–to work, I have to compartmentalize the personal, to do the personal I have to compartmentalize the work, and so on–so this is no exception. I’m there for readers when they need me, and I also make sure I’m there for myself.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Melissa!
YABookShelf: Thanks for being so kind as to stop by my blog, Courtney! It’s much appreciated.
I hope that you enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it with Courtney.