Author: Ann M. Martin (website | twitter)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Raincoast Books in Canada!)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14
Expected publication date: October 7, 2014 (next week!)
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
In her most powerful novel yet, Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin tells the story of girl with mental/emotional challenges and the dog she loves.
Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.
Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.
Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.
A compelling character study of a girl with high-functioning autism, Rain Reign is a middle-grade novel with a deceptively simple writing style. When I first started the novel, I immediately thought it might be a little too young for me. Middle-grade readers might feel the same, but teachers/parents/librarians should encourage kids to stick with this one: Rose, the narrator and protagonist, is fully developed, with a completely authentic and unique voice. Rain Reign illuminated how it might feel to have Asperger’s, and made me really understand and sympathize with Rose’s obsession with homonyms, rules, and prime numbers.
Rose’s dog, Rain, is almost a secondary character in this book – Martin establishes Rain as the one source of unconditional love in the life of a pre-teen with an alcoholic father who doesn’t care about her, a mother who left her, classmates who tease and don’t understand her, and an uncle who is kind, but is always being told to butt out. Rose’ obsession with precision in her words makes it easy to see Rain in your head from her descriptions.
As someone who has a pet, it’s hard to see how anyone wouldn’t sympathize with Rose when Rain goes missing, but the added element of Rose’ need for routine and order just heightens the panic and distress. What I took from this book is Rose’ determination – which lands her in hot water because of it makes her unable to see a rule broken without speaking out – but also gives her the strength to doggedly (sorry) pursue Rain despite her own discomfort with social interactions. What Rose does with what she finds out speaks to that loyalty and determination, and is nothing short of inspiring.
If I have one criticism of this book, it’s that it’s built for success – there’s no way you won’t feel for Rose and want her to succeed. There’s no moment where you’re not on Rose’s side, and as a reader, I want a little more complexity.
But there’s a lot to like in this novel. Martin gives Rose a clever way of foreshadowing what will happen in order to keep momentum going, and the way that Martin inserts homophones to sometimes mix and change a sentence will delight readers.
Animal Love: Like I said before, if you’re a pet owner, you will feel for Rose, and you might cry…
Quirky Words and Numbers: Not only is Rose obsessed with homophones, but she also likes prime numbers. It’s very interesting and telling how her obsession manifests in her behaviour, but aside from that, it’s just darned interesting!
The Final Word:
If I’d read Rain Reign at age eleven, I know I would have adored it – it has literary merit, heart, and taps into the mind of such a unique character. As an adult, I felt like it was a little manipulative with my emotions. That said, I can definitely see Rain Reign becoming a favourite of middle-grade teachers and I truly hope it ends up in tons of classrooms and libraries: it would be great for discussions of identity and autism, as well as more technical discussions of how to write and build a story.
Recommended for: middle-grade readers looking for feels, animal lovers, teachers looking to discuss autism, identity and/or storytelling
Are you interested in reading RAIN REIGN? Be honest, are you half interested because Ann M. Martin is the creator of Baby-Sitters Club (not gonna lie, that’s what drew me to this book first)? How do you feel about animal cruelty in books? Have you read any other animal-centric books in YA? Let me know in the comments!