Originally Posted on Mostly Reading YA
My latest book is called The Fury, so it won’t be a surprise to know that one of the main themes of the story is anger. The Fury is about what would happen if one day, without warning, the entire world turned against you – your mum and dad, your brothers and sisters, your friends and teachers, everyone, came after you and tried to tear you to pieces. By just being near them you turn family and strangers alike into mindless, bloodthirsty ferals who want to kill you, and only you. I don’t want to give away too much information about why this happens, I’ll just say that it’s a reaction driven by a very unique kind of rage – or outrage. But the fury in the book doesn’t only belong to the ‘ferals’, as they are called. The main characters have their own anger, their own inner rage, and it’s this I’d like to talk about.
Anger fascinates me, because as an emotion it’s right there next to horror. They are linked so closely that at times it is difficult to tell them apart, which is why you often hear stories about people in carnival ghost houses, dressed up like zombies and the like, getting punched by frightened, irate visitors. Both emotions are a reaction to some kind of threat, they both raise the heart rate, sharpen the senses, release adrenaline in preparation for a flight or fight response. They are both part of our survival mechanism, hardwired into us from before humans were even humans, the method we use to deal with violence, danger or uncertainty. So it’s only natural that anger plays such an important part in so many horror stories.
My favourite character in The Fury is a guy called Brick. The first lines about him in the novel are: ‘Brick Thomas hated everybody.’ And it’s true, he really does. He has anger management issues, serious ones, and it only takes the slightest tremor in his mood to make him angry – furious. He’s my favourite character because he’s the one who is most like me when I was a teenager. It’s one of the emotions I remember most vividly, anger. I was angry at my parents, angry at my sister, angry at my friends, angry at people because they weren’tmy friends, angry at the girls because none of them wanted to go out with me, angry at my teachers, angry at people walking too slowly down the street, angry at myself. Just like Brick, I was angry with everyone! Unlike Brick, however, I did a good job of keeping my anger simmering just below the surface (except on the odd occasion when I had a massive teenage tantrum). But there’s no doubt it was there.
I think it’s one of the most common emotions when we’re that age, because often anger is a reaction to losing control. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I remember not having control of anything when I was a teenager. Everything about life changes in that awkward transition between childhood and adulthood, the hormones rage, your responsibilities alter, even your own body grows strange and alien. I remember life feeling like a conspiracy; that everyone and everything was working against me. Mainly, I felt powerless, and anger burns most fiercely when you have no power.
There is an undeniable link between anger and power, and it’s a link that I have explored in pretty much all my books. When I was a teenager, when I had no power over anything, even over myself, the result was anger. I used to dream (as I’m sure most teenagers do) of what I would do if I had power. My anger would fuel fantasies of revenge, of destruction. I would smite the people who teased me or bullied me or ignored me or rejected me – which was almost everyone! Nobody would be safe from my reign of terror! Of course I never would have turned my daydreams into reality, but what would have happened if they weren’t just daydreams? What would have happened if anger, instead of being just an emotion, was actually a catalyst for a much bigger change?
This is the angle I explored in Furnace, my last series. In those books the teenage hero, Alex, is given a way to turn his anger into power. He gains strength, speed, deadly skill, all fuelled by fury, and in return all he has to give is himself, his identity. He becomes nothing more than his anger, that white-hot rage consumes him, it devours everything else that he ever was or ever could be. He is anger made flesh, a beast of pure fury. (I don’t need to tell you that one of my favourite comic book heroes is The Incredible Hulk!) That’s the thing about anger – it does give you power of sorts, it does make you almost superhuman. It is, after all, a biological response designed to help you fight an enemy, a predator. But you do lose yourself to it. How many times, when you’re really angry, have you seen red; and for an instant there is nothing in your head and heart but violence.
The Fury deals with that same relationship between anger and power, but in a different way – and I can’t say too much without giving it away! All I will say is that this book, and the sequel, explore what happens when anger and power become one and the same, when there is no way to distinguish between the two. How does somebody like Brick react when the tables are turned, when he has power and the rest of the world is full of powerless rage? What happens when Fury becomes a weapon?
Anger is part of who we are, a natural human emotion, and learning to deal with it, to control it, is one of the first lessons we learn. I’m glad that anger and power were separate things when I was a teenager, otherwise I probably would have caused untold destruction and maybe even the end of the world. But there are still times when I get angry and I dream of what I could do if that anger equalled power, if that anger was a weapon. I’m sure everyone dreams of it every now and again. I’m sure everyone, whether they admit it or not, has The Fury…