REVIEW: 'Furious Thing' by Jenny Downham Showed Me That Anger Can Be A Good Thing
Hello Fellow Readerholics,
Weird manic birthday week is over and now I’m just playing catch up on all of the books I’ve read over February and soon March. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever truly catch up to what I’m reading but I’m willing to try! A few weeks ago now, I read ‘Furious Thing’ by Jenny Downham and as usual I have some thoughts. Let’s get into it!
Bad things happen when you’re around, Lex…
That’s what her stepfather tells her. That’s what she believes about herself.
But how can she convince herself and everyone around her that her anger doesn’t make her a monster? If only she could stop losing her temper and behave herself, her stepfather would accept her, her mom would love her like she used to, and her stepbrother would declare his crushing desire to spend the rest of his life with her. She wants these things so badly, she’s determined to swallow her anger and make her family proud.
But pushing fury down doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, it simmers below the surface, waiting to erupt. There’ll be fireworks when it does…
This title is one of irony because it turned me into a furious thing while reading it. I wasn’t angry at the plot, or at Lexi (especially not at Lexi omg) but it made me mad all the same. On one hand, anger doesn’t feel very nice so it was uncomfortable for me but it was also so good and liberating and just UGHHH (this book made me want to tear my hair out, at this rate I’ll be bald before 18). I think that’s kind of the point here though, I think we’re meant to be angry and uncomfortable and it shouldn’t feel nice because this book isn’t nice. I still loved it though.
So here’s how it is. Lexi lives with her mum (Iris), her soon to be stepdad (John) and her half sister (Sophie) . Her soon-to-be stepbrother (Kass) is at university and Lexi has had a crush on him for ages. I know that the stepbrother but not stepbrother crush thing is weird but I also understand that they haven’t been raised as siblings. They’ve only ever really known each other as friends but it’s still weird. I found Lexi really hard to like. She’s constantly in a rage, she throws things and she’s got some really problematic views when it comes to being in love with your almost stepbrother but I did find her easy to love. As we as readers learn more about Lexi and why she is the way she is, we see a girl trying to take control of a situation the only way she knows how, with her anger.
I really loved the message of ‘owning your anger’ because it should be owned. In society, we’re often told that we should hide our outrage and that it is an undesirable thing, to be angry. It isn’t though. Lexi shows us that it makes perfect sense to be angry, the world is an unfair place after all. That message alone was quite empowering as we’ve all seen at some stage in our lives that anger can be ugly, I learnt that it can also be kind of beautiful if we let it.
Lexi’s (almost) stepfather is abusive towards Iris, Lexi, Kass and Sophie. Throughout the book Lexi is asked if he hits her or touches her inappropriately. He doesn’t. It’s because John is verbally and emotionally abusive. He constantly gaslights them and berates Lexi for her behaviour. He made me furious. Lexi’s mum is just so in love with John that she chooses to ignore his abusive tendencies and Lexi is forced to bear most of John’s hate alone. Before I mentioned that Lexi was asked about physical or sexual abuse only because it’s a problem. This book is set in the UK and I’ve found that emotional and verbal abuse are considered to be far less dangerous and terrible than any form of physical abuse and that’s not right. It wasn’t long ago where it wasn’t a criminal offence to emotionally manipulate or abuse somebody even though it can cause just as much damage as any other form of abuse.
I also found the ‘generational’ (I don’t know what other word I would use to describe it as) abuse aspect a really important part of the plot. As we look deeper into the characters we learn that Kass, John’s son, is mirroring John in regards to some of his emotionally abusive tendencies. I applaud the author’s ability to make light of some of the red flags associated with ‘budding’ abusers and I suppose the cycle associated with that. Kass states that his worst fear is to become like his father but he’s doing without realising that he is replicating that behaviour. I think it speaks volumes that any form of abuse can emotionally damage people to the point where they imitate that behaviour and the cycle continues.
One thing that didn’t sit well with me the whole subplot of Lexi’s family trying to get her on ADHD medication. Throughout the novel, Lexi (and perhaps the author) had a firm anti medication stance and while I do acknowledge that John’s goal to get Lexi on medication was as a means to better control her. I will accept that there is a strong possibility that Lexi never had ADHD, it is very clear to me that Lexi does need some form of mental support, even if just for her trauma regarding John. I just felt that the novel ignored the legitimate benefits of therapy and medication and almost portrayed them as negative and shameful things as opposed to things that actually help people.
The ending had me conflicted. In light of all the events covered in the book, the ending could be seen by some as hopeful and positive but I feel that it didn’t fit the narrative here. After such a traumatic experience, there is a level of damage to be expected and I felt that the ending was a ‘rose coloured glasses’ situation. It just wasn’t realistic.
Overall, this book made me angry and uncomfortable and sad. I’m glad it did. I’m rating it a 3.6/5.
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