Rage: A Love Story

Ages:14 and up
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (December 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375844112
ISBN-13: 978-0375844119

A National Book Award Finalist offers an intense portrait of an abusive relationship.

Johanna imagines the girl of her dreams to be amazing, sensuous and perfect in every way. Then Reeve Hartt, the elusive girl she loves—the one she’s always desired—falls for her, and Johanna discovers that love can be blind; love can be wrong; and worst of all, love can be dangerous.

In the precarious place where attraction and need collide, a teenager experiences the dark side of a first love, and struggles to find her way into a new light.

I'm wearing ultra low-rider camo pants that barely cover my crack and if she looks she’ll see the strap of my thong. This filmy, beige crop top where, if I get a chill, my nipples will be my most outstanding feature. My hair looks sexy hanging in my eyes. My walk is killer. She can’t not notice me.
I enter her field of vision, she does a slow double take, then stops mid-sentence talking with her clique, the LBDs, mid-sentence. Her eyes scrape me, skim me. Scratch and burn me. I feel her drink me in and salivate. I don’t look. Not yet, not yet. My eyes shift slightly. ZAP. ZING. She’s hooked. I smile her in.
She’s mine.

Joyland: Take 2

Same sexy me. She detaches from the LesBo Dykes, or Les Beau Dykes, and follows me to the parking lot. She gets in her car; stays close to mine, runs a yellow light. She tracks me to the bank of the river, to the edge of Fallon Falls. We park and get out. I step on the slippery rocks, arms extended, balancing across the rushing water. I spring to the shore, knowing she’s on my scent. Around the side of the boulder, I duck into a cave and wait. The smell of burnt sugar tickles my nose. I hear her. She enters and steps in front of me—reaches out a hand, both hands, and moves into me, slides her arms around my waist, my bare skin, where nerve endings spark and snap. There’s no time to blink or moisten my lips.
“Hi. I’m Johanna.”
She kisses me long and hard; awakens the ache of longing inside me. Her lips are metal, then melon. Finally, finally she lets me go. I gasp for breath and she smiles, a one-sided, sliver moon smile, and says, “Now that we have the introductions out of the way…”

“Johanna, dear?”
I jerk to the present.
“Mrs. Arcaro has passed,” Jeannette says.
I missed it, the last breath of her life. A pang of guilt for daydreaming at this critical time stabs at my heart, but I chase it away. I give Mrs. Arcaro’s frail hand a gentle squeeze and lay it on the sheet. I feel Mom smiling down on me from heaven.
As I’m leaving Memorial Hospice, I feel uplifted. I meant something to someone. Even if Mrs. Arcaro was a stranger, I’m the one who was there for her at the end.
I’m the one who stayed.

In November of 1995, I received a letter from a reader, Alyson, who asked if I’d write a book about relationship abuse between lesbians. She’d lived through the experience herself and felt that same-sex abuse was an important topic—one that wasn’t represented in young adult literature. I told her what I always tell people who make specific requests for books: “This is your story and I think you should tell it.” Everyone’s experience is unique to them, and even though I’ve written stories in the past that I haven’t lived through, (i.e. Luna), I don’t believe I can write authentically about any topic in the world. Also, at the time, I was working on two or three other books.

Alyson wrote back. She said even if she did write the story, it wouldn’t reach as many people as my book might, or have the impact. I told her, as kindly as possible, that I really didn’t want to write a book about abuse.

Why? Well, for one thing, the books I’ve read about relationship abuse always include a villain and a victim. I don’t believe that’s the case. Where there’s a dysfunctional relationship both parties contribute. I knew violence was about control, and most probably a learned behavior from childhood, but a person who takes it and keeps taking it must have a need to be controlled somehow. I’d never explored in depth what that need was, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I think I actually had a sympathetic bias in favor of the abuser.

Alyson wrote back again and again. Each time, she asked, “Have you given any more thought to the book?” I told her, “I really don’t want to write it, Alyson. I don’t know that much about lesbian abuse.” She said, “I have all my journals and diaries. You’re free to use them. And I’ll answer any questions you have.”

This girl was persistent. She was making it very difficult to say no. I learned she and her girlfriend had begun their abusive relationship in high school—a truly violent one—and continued it after graduation. Fortunately, they both got counseling and the violence ended.

But I had another bias. I wasn’t sure people who lived through abusive relationships ever came out whole. The couple may resolve the immediate issue, but there’s still an underlying monster that keeps them together for the wrong reasons. Was I wrong? I’m no psychologist, so it was only my gut reaction.

Alyson wrote me month after month. We became friends. She and her girlfriend were doing well, building a life together. Then suddenly all communication stopped.

I worried about her. I wrote and wrote to her. Finally, I received an email and she said she and her girlfriend had broken up, that it just wasn’t going to work.

At that point I felt I could write this book. Maybe it was my investment in Alyson and her welfare, or my growing interest in the topic of same-sex abuse. Perhaps it was timing. My story wouldn’t be Alyson’s, of course, but I could bring my own sensibilities to it.

Alyson was extremely supportive throughout the research and writing phases, which were lengthy. I’m grateful to her for her honesty, courage, openness and detailed critique of the manuscript. I’m thankful she encouraged me to educate myself and others on the realities of partner abuse among lesbians. Yes, it reflects the same realities as heterosexual abuse, but there are also important differences:

* People tend not to believe that a girl/woman is capable of causing significant physical damage. She’s a woman, after all.

* Abuse is thought to be mutual, such as little girls fighting. Violence is oftentimes downplayed.

* A lesbian who chooses to call the police may face all kinds of homophobia.

* The criminal justice system may not take lesbian abuse seriously.

* Girls/women who aren’t out to their friends or family have nowhere to go when they want to leave an abusive relationship. Fewer support systems are in place.

Abuse manifests in a number of ways. The violence can be overt, such as punching, hitting, kicking, pushing or shoving. It can include forced participation in sex or withholding sex.

Abuse can be covert as well. “I’ll out you if you say anything,” is an example of psychological manipulation. Girls may also feel isolated and humiliated by their situation.

When a person is under the control of another, it undermines her self-esteem. Abusive situations are devastating to a young woman’s sense of herself and her ability to make informed choices.

If you suspect you are in an abusive relationship (and sometimes you don’t even realize it), there are steps you can take:

* Tell someone what is happening to you. If you don’t feel your friends will understand, check for online resources including gay and lesbian organizations and abusive dating helplines and services.

* Learn your legal rights. You may need the help of police or legal aid services. Stay safe.

* Seek counseling. Whether you’re the person abusing your partner or the one being abused, find a counselor empathetic to lesbian issues. Check online for women’s help centers.

* Join a support group of lesbians who are survivors of relationship abuse. Learning to recognize abuse and how you handle it personally will go a long way toward ending the cycle.


* You have no control over your partner’s behavior

* You must both take responsibility for your actions

* No one has the right to abuse you

* You are not alone. Find help.


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