Published by Feiwel and Friends on October 7th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, middle grade
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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.
This is one sneaky little book. Rose’s voice grabbed me from the start, but the story is a little bit slower in its ability to captivate. That said, by the end, I was in tears – both sorrowful and joyful – and I don’t take that sort of feeling lightly. On its surface, Rain Reign seems like a straightforward story about a girl and her dog, but there’s so much more going on in the background and it took me completely by surprise.
I want to be upfront, though. I don’t think everyone is going to like this book as much as I do – and that’s okay because my favorites are always a little bit quirky and off the beaten path. The writing style in Rain Reign is a little bit irritating if you don’t have patience. Our main character, Rose (rows) has Asperger’s and because of that, her narration isn’t exactly what we’re used to reading. She is obsessed with homonyms, prime numbers, and rules. She’s not always equipped with coping skills needed to handle social interactions with other children, and she is prone to outbursts, especially while in a car or on the school bus and she sees a driver (even the person driving her) breaking the rules of the road. Whenever a word in the text comes up that has a homophone she will use parentheses and add the words in (inn). The parentheses were frustrating, as were some of the other liberties taken in the writing style, but the writing does stand out, and I like that in a book. All that said, though, Rose’s voice was strong and unique; she spoke to the reader, and I felt like I really could knew her.
At first, this book is adorable. It is all about 12 year old Rose (rows) and her routines and her dog Rain (reign, rein.) She tells us all about her days at school, her aide, why she doesn’t ride the bus, and how she passes her time in the afternoons. But after the first few chapters, it’s clear that not everything in Rose’s life is all sunshine and rainbows. Her mother left her family when Rose was still very young, and her father has some major anger and drinking issues. Because of Rose’s inability to understand social cues and the feelings of others, she’s not really able to communicate the gravity of her situation. But it’s clear as day to the reader that she’s living in a very toxic environment. The two rays of light in all this darkness are her dog and her uncle Weldon. Weldon is such a positive force in Rose’s life; it was such a relief for me every time he came onto the page. This book broke my heart because I know there are thousands of children on the spectrum who don’t have the support that Uncle Weldon gives Rose.
I was shocked by the child abuse in this book. Honestly, from the blurb, I wasn’t exactly expecting it. I’m just glad that the author gives the reader enough time to acclimate to Rose’s father’s temper before there’s any real triggering content. More talk about the abusive passage under the spoiler tag. View Spoiler »Rose’s father gets frustrated and angry with Rose, and he raises his fist to her. Before he can come down on Rose, he’s stopped by Rain pouncing on him. He turns his anger towards the dog and hits her once on the back. Rose and Rain hide under the table and her father tried to each them under there for a little while before giving up and leaving for the bar. This passage was painful as hell to read. « Hide Spoiler
I know I’ve gone on about how dark Rain Reign is, but it is hopeful, too. There is hope for Rose and there is hope for Rain. There is a happy ending.
When I read middle grade, sometimes I try to read with my 12 year old self in mind, but it’s obviously hard to separate my reading experience from the rest of myself. Honestly, though, I would have loved this as a kid. The writing is engaging and just quirky enough to keep you engaged. Rose is a resourceful young heroine; as a kid I would have loved her, just like I love her now that I’m an adult. It also helps that the book is fast-paced with short chapters and a low page count.
Readers of all ages will enjoy this story of Rose, her dog, and the love and companionship they provide for one another.