When Melissa Miller can't breathe she takes a razor to her skin and bleeds the pain away. She is only 16 but already her body is covered in scars. One day a delivery man comes to the door and offers her a package. Should she open it when on the brink of death she will accept the office of one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War.
My own high school experience was so incredibly uneventful that I had no idea it could be such a traumatic time and while I have heard of self-harming before it was always something that happened to someone else somewhere far away. Jackie Kessler made it real in such a way that by the time I was halfway through I've already decided to look up other books by Jackie Kessler, especially the first one in the Horsemen of the Apocalypse series. Fortunately, if Rage is any indication, while the books are connected by who the protagonists become it is not necessary to read them in order.
Melissa is easy to sympathize with, in part because the world in her head is so dark and disturbing - half the time I just wanted to hug her to reassure her that she wasn't alone. She is intelligent and funny and has a sharp tongue but she is also very hurt and lonely. The extent to which the other characters are developed is in direct correlation with how important and influential they are in Missy's life. Those who matter are vivid, those she sees as little more than scenery are barely fleshed out. I suppose it is a common way to view the world for a teenager and with Missy talking about the things that happen but not explaining them the story reads rather like a diary, which made for much more intimate storytelling.
Another thing I found appealing is how non-preachy this book is. One would almost expect one of the characters to begin pontificating at some point and here there's none of that. It's actually very good fun despite the dark subject matter. And how could it not be fun when the Grim Reaper himself looks like Kurt Cobain, plays guitar and says things like "rock on"?
I really liked the ending because there wasn't closure like there is in majority of books. Life goes on and Missy has to take every day one breath at a time, just like the rest of us do. There's no real closure until you actually die and it's the same for everybody - you, me, Missy and War.
If you are a teen or getting there or have a person of that age in your life I recommend that you read this book. I'd like to think that it may help recognize the signs of self-harming in others, find the courage to get help or the strength to put down the blade for good.
ARC of this book obtained from NetGalley.com