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Furious

Review

Furious

Meg has plenty of reasons to be angry. She lives with an abusive foster mother, she’s crushing on an unattainable boy with boorish friends, her hair is unmanageable, and she only has one friend. But Meg has no outlet for her rage until a strange daydream changes everything. One afternoon, she dozes in Western Civilization class and has an unusually evocative experience of otherworldly music. Nine notes, repeated. When she awakens, she finds that she is standing on her chair in the middle of the classroom, yelling over and over, “I hate everyone.” To her surprise, embarrassment is only part of her reaction. More than anything, she finds this cathartic.  

"Wolfson dramatizes concerns of modern teenagers by giving her protagonists mythological power, and, in doing so, she asks her readers to consider their own complicated relationships with anger."

When her magnetic peer Ambrosia tells Meg and two of her classmates that the three of them are becoming the Furies, Greek mythology’s deities of revenge, Meg wants to believe her. After a few days of experimentation with their powers, belief has nothing to do with it. Meg and her angry peers, Stephanie and Alix, are tapping into their most toxic hatred and using it to change those who do harm to others. But Meg’s only longtime friend, Raymond, worries that the Furies may cause real damage if they let their power get the best of them. In Jill Wolfson’s FURIOUS, Meg grapples with questions that will resonate with most teenage girls today. Now that her involuntary confession has outed her as someone with rage issues, Meg has some decisions to make. Should she make her anger fully known? If so, how should she express her anger? To what ends? As Meg makes her bold choices, she must contend with the way that anger looks when spewed into the lives of other people.

This novel combines the grand imagination of fantasy stories with the all-too-true tale of the high school misfit. As Meg becomes a sort of twisted superhero, the reader is given the opportunity both to exult in the raw power of Meg’s new persona and to cringe at Meg’s growing thirst for revenge. This is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series all grown up. It packs all of the same gleeful recognition of your favorite Greek mythology stories, but the characters are older and full of adolescent uncertainties.

One of the strengths of this book is the way that it showcases three young women who are angry about different things and who express their anger in different ways. Alix loves to surf, but she is the only girl in town trying to catch waves. The local cohort of male surfers cuts her off in the water and restricts her movements. She displays her anger where everyone can see it and even throws a punch or two when the moment is right.

Stephanie advocates for environmental rights but only incites the derision of her peers. They see her as obsessive, condescending and generally embarrassing. She posts signs in the bathroom stalls that encourage students to flush only when absolutely necessary. Her fervor is absolutely genuine, and it is fueled by her outrage at her parents, land developers who are planning to destroy local flora and fauna to build a new housing development.

As angst-ridden as the new Furies can be, Raymond balances the tone with his particular brand of comedy. Everyone finds him pretentious because he skipped a few grades and is a math whiz and a violin prodigy. Even Meg, his best and only friend, acknowledges that he can be annoying. But he also happens to be endearingly dorky, hilarious and unerringly loyal to Meg. Wolfson has created a unique voice for him that encapsulates all of these things. He steals all of his scenes and makes you wish you had to put up with a friend like that.

When Ambrosia sees the potential in fuming Meg, brash Alix and ardent Stephanie, she names them the Furies Megaera, Alecto, and Tisiphone. Familiarity with Greek mythology may help the eagle-eyed reader spot another Greek deity in the midst of this high school.

Wolfson integrates the theme of ancient Greece into her story structure. Although Meg narrates the main plot of the story, the vengeful Ambrosia adds her own commentary in the stasimons, brief interludes from the plot in which she gives glimpses into her outlook on recent events. This is a structural element of Greek tragedies, in which the chorus reiterates major events of the plot so that the audience could piece together all that had just happened onstage. Ambrosia, here, acts as a one-woman chorus.

Although the book does not spend much time on gender politics, positioning the Furies as high school girls brings up questions about the relationship between girls and their anger. Teenage girls have plenty to be angry about. If they express their anger, they risk being seen as obnoxious and unfeminine. If they tamp down their anger, they become doormats. Many adolescent girls’ coming-of-age stories need to contend with the question of anger, and Wolfson makes this question visible with the Fury myth.

Wolfson’s characterization of Raymond’s sexual orientation is also distinct. She describes him as gay in the middle of a sentence, and only addresses this again when he briefly mentions their high school’s unimpressive dating pool. He is a gay character who is comfortable with his sexuality, and he spends the novel contending with justice, revenge and friendship. Raymond exists beyond his orientation.

The end of the novel succeeds in that it is not too neat. Mistakes have lasting consequences, and we don’t need lengthy explanations. By the end, readers have answered any lingering questions for themselves or at least hazarded compelling guesses. Wolfson dramatizes concerns of modern teenagers by giving her protagonists mythological power, and, in doing so, she asks her readers to consider their own complicated relationships with anger.

Reviewed by on May 3, 2013

Furious
by Jill Wolfson

  • Publication Date: April 16, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 14+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • ISBN-10: 0805082832
  • ISBN-13: 9780805082838