Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse Series)

Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse Series)

4.4 26
by Jackie Morse Kessler

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Jackie Morse Kessler’s Riders of the Apocalypse series follows teens who are transformed into the Four Horsemen of the  Apocalypse.

In the second book of the series, Rage, a teenage cutter becomes War, one of the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of

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Jackie Morse Kessler’s Riders of the Apocalypse series follows teens who are transformed into the Four Horsemen of the  Apocalypse.

In the second book of the series, Rage, a teenage cutter becomes War, one of the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

Rage includes a teaser chapter of the next book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, Loss

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Rage is the companion novel to Hunger (Houghton, 2010), which looks at anorexia through the lens of Famine. Missy is a cutter. She cuts not to enjoy pain, but rather to control it. After she has been publicly humiliated, the Horseman Death appears, offering her the opportunity to fill in for one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. She accepts the position of War by taking the symbol of the office—the sword—and galloping off on the red steed that she dubs Ares. In her new role, she travels the countryside studying conflict and learns the role of War in maintaining peace. After each adventure with Ares and her fellow Horsemen, Missy tumbles back into her high school life as though nothing has changed. Although the myth offers a unique spin on the cutting genre, it seems a bit underdeveloped here: War is never fully unleashed, and readers never see Missy's high school peers witness her new station. Purchase where the first book has been popular.—Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
From the Publisher
  Praise for Hunger:

An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

* "Realistic and compassionate. . . . the writing is never preachy, and it allows an interesting exploration of both intensely personal food issues and global ones."
SLJ, starred review

"Jackie Morse Kessler does a fine job of taking a critical issue that has been explored in writing no small number of times, and putting a new and thought provoking spin on it. . . . Sheer genius."
New York Journal of Books

"Powerful, fast-paced, hilarious, heart-wrenching. . . . This story will grab the reader and never let go."
Romantic Times Magazine

"Hunger is not just a good book. It is a great book. It is funny and sad, brilliant and tragic, and most of all, it speaks truth. . . . I adore it."
—Rachel Caine, author of The Morganville Vampires

"A fantastic and gripping read that never shies from its difficult subject matter. . . . This book is a knockout."
—A.S. King, author of Everybody See the Ants

Praise for Rage:

A Junior Library Guild Selection

An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

"Rage is raw and real, a truly dark, honest look at self-harm and the teenage psyche. Kessler left me breathless."
—Heather Brewer, author of the New York Times bestselling series, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

"The elegant mix of dark humor, brilliantly developed characters, and just enough moral threads to lead readers to make their own conclusions is impressive."

"Raw, visceral, pulling no punches, this story strikes home like a razor blade. It’s unforgettable, heart wrenching, and enlightening."
Realms of Fantasy


Praise for Loss:

"Kessler blends fantasy, history, humor, and hard reality into a gripping tale."

"Jackie Morse Kessler has a keen eye for capturing the awkward uncertainty of adolescence, which she wraps quite deliciously in a coating of mystery, fright, and suspense. Loss is a treat for readers, a one-of-a-kind, twisty turny carnival ride. . . . I loved this book."
—Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens

"Whip-smart and elegant."
—Saundra Mitchell, author of The Vespertine

"Gritty and raw with powerful truths. An addictive read."
—Sophie Jordan New York Times bestselling author of Firelight

Praise for Breath:

A Junior Library Guild Selection 

"A riveting read."
—Kirkus Reviews

"The series is a strong and unique attempt to encourage troubled teens to consider their options and accept the help they need, while exposing all readers to the pain their friends may be experiencing."

Children's Literature - BriAnne Baxley MLIS
Missy is just like any other young teenage girl, going through changes and learning to figure out the feelings that life brings to her. For Missy knowing how to control her feelings instead of letting them control her is the hardest tasks of all. When embarrassment, hurt, and rage dance in her head Missy must bottle up her feelings so that they cannot escape. However, like any glass bottle it shatters leaving the young girl with a rush of emotions. Struggling to cope with her feelings Missy finds the only way to get through is by letting it all bleed out so that her blood is pure again. As a self mutilator, Missy finds comfort with the razor but she does not understand the danger until she cuts too deep one night. Knowing that death is upon her, Missy is given a covenant that will ensure life. Missy must take up the sword of War, the Red Horseman of the Apocalypse. By being War, Missy learns how to face her feelings head on with her the strength that she has in herself. As a companion to Hunger, teens are introduced to every day struggles of their peers along with solutions that will help them battle through the uncertainties that life. Reviewer: BriAnne Baxley, MLIS
VOYA - Alissa Lauzon
Whenever Melissa feels the pain of the world, she reaches for her lockbox with her cutting supplies and drains the pain from her body. After one horrible night, in which her ex-boyfriend betrays her in a horrifying and very public display, Missy reaches for her blades again—but cuts too deeply. Death gives her a choice: die, or take up the mantle of the red rider in the Horseman of the Apocalypse War. Horrified when she sees the devastation caused by War and recognizing the violence the power evokes, Missy struggles to learn to control her emotions while carrying the mantle and the powers of War. While Kessler's second novel in the Horseman of the Apocalypse series can be read on its own, readers who are familiar with Hunger (Graphia, 2010) will have a better understanding of the world that Kessler has created examining teen social disorders through the mythology behind the Horseman of the Apocalypse. As she did with eating disorders, Kessler uses the emotional turmoil behind cutting to bring the Horseman War to life. This dark and gritty novel will capture readers with its haunting scenes and engaging characters. Missy battles between wanting to do the right thing without causing harm, and her intense desire to unleash the full powers of War as revenge, are powerful. Readers of Hunger will enjoy seeing more depth to Death's character and just might wish they had been chosen as the red horseman and Death's handmaiden themselves. (Book 2) Reviewer: Alissa Lauzon
VOYA - Mary Boutet
Rage begins with the death of a cat and the appearance of the Angel of Death, quickly followed by cliche lines about black souls and "nobody understands me" rants. Mixed in with this, however, are some truly beautiful similes and sentences. As the novel progresses, some of the cliches remain but are outweighed by an honest story about emotion, power, and what it means to be in control of yourself. The author's use of reoccurring phrases is well done; Graygirl's (the pet cat) storyline is one of the best components of this book. Death is used equally as a source of wisdom and comedic relief and the major action of the novel is either super-overblown—mundane high school drama or supernatural-apocalyptic-Horsemen drama. Rage is, in the end, a worthwhile read. 4Q,4P. (Book 2) Reviewer: Mary Boutet

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Riders of the Apocalypse Series , #2
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
HL780L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


Two Months Ago

The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the Angel of Death. Except he was no angel—and he wasn’t there for the cat. He loomed in the doorway of the Miller house, dappled in sunlight and smiling at Missy as she gaped at him.

"You have blood on your hands," he said.

His words stabbed her, sharp and precise, and her heart jackhammered as if to break free from her chest. "What?"

"Blood," he repeated. "Thick. Red, ranging from maroon to carnelian, depending on the oxygen content. You know," he said cheerfully. "Life."

Don’t panic, she told herself. He didn’t know. He was just a delivery guy, an anonymous no one in a brown hoodie shirt so long and loose that it blended into his brown cargo pants. A stranger. Even so, sweat popped on Missy’s brow as she peered at him. "Who—?"

His smile stretched, cutting off her question as she saw the grin hidden beneath the flesh, all lipless teeth and gallows humor. "You know who I am, Melissa Miller."

And she did.

With that recognition, Missy’s knees buckled. Her breath constricted in her throat, trapping her scream.

"So afraid," Death said. His voice wasn’t kind, exactly, but it also wasn’t cruel; it was the sound of balance, and infinite patience. "And yet, it’s fear that’s kept you alive. So I won’t take it personally."

Her chest tightened, tightened, transforming her body into a slow cooker and setting her heart to Boil. She had to cut herself now, right now, bleed out the pain before it swallowed her whole.

But she couldn’t move; beneath his hood, Death’s stormy gaze had captured her, cemented her feet to the ground.

Missy stammered, "H-How . . . ?" The rest of the question died on her tongue.

He chuckled, the sound like faint music. "You’re too adorable. ‘What?’ ‘Who?’ ‘How?’ The ‘where,’ at least, doesn’t need to be asked. And like the others, it really doesn’t need to be answered. For thee," he said, motioning.

With that movement, she was able to tear her gaze away from his shadowed face. He was offering her an oblong package: a pristinely, coldly white box. Where the package had come from, Missy couldn’t say; it was as if it had always been in his hands and she only now noticed it. Which made no sense, considering that the package was a good three feet long.

Then again, none of this made sense. Death was on her doorstep, bearing a gift like a suitor. A corsage before the prom, she thought, and she quashed an insane urge to giggle.

"Take it, Melissa Miller."

Missy reached out with an unsteady hand, slowly, fighting the urge to grab the box. Her fingers ghosted over the package, her nails skimming the white surface and leaving blood-red trails in their wake, trails that quickly faded when she snatched her hand away. She blinked, and the box was once again white and pure, untainted by her touch.

"Why?" she asked, her voice hoarse.

He let out another chuckle, one that slithered up her spine and wrapped around her throat. "Philosophy? Well, then. For you, multiple choice. A, why not? B, because." He leaned in close and Missy cringed. "C," he said, "you were too overwhelmed to hold your blade precisely. You were going to slice an artery. The spray would have hit you here." He motioned to her eyes, her cheek, her chin. "You would have watched the blood, sitting in stunned silence as your life ebbed, wondering what went wrong and what happened next. It would have looked like suicide," he added, his eyes shining darkly, like starlight trapped in whirlpools. "But you and I both know better. Don’t we, Melissa?"

Her head swam with his words, and she squeezed her eyes shut to make the world stop spinning. But darkness was no friend: devoid of sight, she once again heard Graygirl’s last pleading meow, warbling and sickly, once again felt the furry body go limp and empty.

"No," she whispered. She opened her eyes, but the darkness remained on her doorstep, grinning at her.

"Yes," said Death. "Take the box, Melissa Miller."

Overwhelmed, she took the box. This time, it remained steadfastly white.

And then Missy slammed the door in Death’s face.

She bolted upstairs, the long package tucked under her arm. Voices assaulted her: her father’s, from the den, asking who’d been at the door; her mother’s, from the upstairs office, chiding her not to slam things.

His voice, dark and velvety soft, intimate and yet cold: You have blood on your hands.

Missy ignored them all. Thoughts whirling, she rushed into the safety of her room. She slammed the door (surely earning another reprimand from her mother) and locked it, then dropped the package—barely the size of a flower box now, and shrinking—onto her tattered comforter. The poster on her closet door shimmered in the curtained light. As always, Marilyn Monroe’s eyes were closed in ecstasy, and James Dean stared off to the right, his troubled gaze on something Missy couldn’t see. By the bottom left of the poster, a red rose was disfigured by the closet doorknob.

She opened the closet door quickly and tucked the white tie box onto the high shelf. She shut the door and finally collapsed on top of her blanket, clutching her pillow to her chest. Her long sleeves chafed her arms; her wrists begged her to strip naked and let the air kiss her skin.

You have blood on your hands.

Her eyes stung. She blinked out the tears, felt them meander down her cheeks, burning saltwater tracks into her flesh. Squeezing her pillow, Missy thought about opening her closet door again—not for the new package, no, but for her lockbox and what was inside of it.

The spray would have hit you here, Death had said. She imagined his fingers caressing her face, wondered if his hands would be cold, like his voice. She almost smiled, but then Death’s voice gave way to another, even colder voice.


Holding her pillow like a shield, Missy gritted her teeth. No, she couldn’t take out the box, no matter how much she wanted to.

With that decision, she forgot about the messenger who’d come to her door, about the white box she’d taken but had not truly accepted.

All she thought now was how she’d show him that she wasn’t a freak. She didn’t need to cut. She could handle it—school, her family, her life, everything. She could do it.

I don’t need the blade, she told herself, making it her mantra. I don’t need the blade. I don’t.

Missy bore the first pangs of emotional withdrawal as she imagined the blood vessels that tattooed her body beneath her skin, mapping the way to hidden treasure.


On the Millers’ doorstep, Death stood, mouth agape. The potted plants on either side of the front door sagged, already brown and withered. Overhead, the summer sun winked behind clouds, capricious, turning the sky a picturesque blue, now bleak and on the edge of nightmare, now bright again.

"Well, now," Death eventually said. "That was different."

In the front yard, a pale horse nickered.

Death shook his head as he approached his steed. "I didn’t even charge her with her task. Slammed the door in my face. In my face." He chuckled. "I don’t know if I’m insulted or amused."

The pale horse snorted.

"You’re right," he said, patting his steed’s powerful neck. "Definitely amused. I like her."

The horse blinked, perhaps reproachfully.

"Can I help it if I have a type?"

This time, the horse didn’t answer.

Death climbed up in a practiced motion, limbs fluid and graceful. Once again the Pale Rider of the Apocalypse, he said, "Let’s move on. That car crash over on Third isn’t going to unsmash itself."

The steed’s ears twitched toward the Miller house, and the horse blew out a question in the way that horses do. "Her? Not a problem." Death smiled warmly. "I can wait."

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