At the end of Hadrian’s Lover, the story had fast-forwarded to the “happy ending”. Hadrian’s Rage shows the struggles of these characters (and more) to get to his or her own place of solace.
Hadrian’s Rage is set in the same dystopian society as Hadrian’s Lover, where homosexuality is praised as the standard, and heterosexuality is a minority “life choice”. In both books, Patricia uses this backdrop to show just how unfair and ridiculous it is that we currently police the bedrooms of our fellow human beings. Her stories show how characters in Hadrian are criminalized and brutalized based on their sexual orientation, or marginalized based on his or her gender identity. What Hadrian’s Rage was able to do better than its precursor in this regard was to make the message hit home. In Hadrian’s Lover, the vicious actions, slanderous propaganda, and weak justifications by the aggressors and the media were obviously cruel and inexplicable, still I found myself thinking, “I see the parallels to today’s society, but thank God we aren’t that extreme!” But, through a clever use of the footnote (more than just the compulsion of an English teacher!) Patricia provided a link to a real story that inspired (and in many cases, directly paralleled) the events in the book. That simple, sudden connection to reality not only made me more invested in the story of Hadrian’s society, but more aware and invested in the unfortunate truth that is our world.
The depth of this novel is truly wonderful. By no means is this a story only about sexual and gender discrimination. This is a story that everyone can connect to on a personal level. The characters are intriguing, well rounded, and most importantly, imperfect. Following the characters introduced in Hadrian’s Lover – and a few new ones – Patricia weaves a story that is both delicate and robust, showing each individual’s very human challenges in his or her struggles for love and belonging. Frank’s story is particularly compelling. Only a naive boy in the first novel, Frank’s fight is with his unending grief and self-loathing from Todd Middleton’s death. Frank’s guilt is palpable and all too real; Patricia successfully constructs the emotions of her characters within the hearts of her readers – a skill not possessed by many authors. Frank’s story, one of throwing himself into his work and finding his own sort of bastardized peace with his routine, is a common one of those suffering of grief. But, beautifully, his eventual lover came to Frank only because of his connection to Todd’s past. Devon was initially angry toward Frank – having had history with Todd Middleton prior to his death. However, Devon and Frank ended up bonding over their mutual imperfections, giving each other the opportunity to heal their self-inflicted wounds and, in a way, make reparations for their imperfect pasts. Patricia crafts a beautiful love story where the classic adage of “more than the sum of the parts” rings true. Even more than this, however, is a reminder of an even older truth: that true peace can be found only when we choose to embrace that from which we would rather run.