Happy MMGM, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm reviewing the beautiful Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. It's an upcoming middle-grade novel about a young heroine who shows us what it is to view the world thourhg a different pair of eyes.
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: October 7th 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
Format read: ARC via publisher
After developing a meaningful relationship with a loving stray dog named Rain, Rose shows readers and those around her, how the love and understanding of one relationship, can forever change the lives of everyone else around her.
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.
But I haven't read any of Ann's other books since then - I know, I know - so when I was given the opportunity to read Rain Reign, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
Well, let me be the first to say: this is a powerful story on so many levels. It's a book that not only shows what it means to see the world through different eyes, but it's a book that shows the type of love and understanding which exist in so many different forms.
I'm anticipating that Rain Reign will not only become a much-loved book, but will also be huge award winner this year, as well. I seriously can't wait for all of you to read this book.
Things that worked:
From the very first page, Martin does an amazing job of helping the reader see the world through the eyes of twelve-year-old Rose Howard. Through a clear, beautifully-written narration, we see how Rose structures her world through the ability to follow rules and finding prime numbers, and also her delight in discovering new homonyms.
Conversely, readers also have a front row view of Rose's struggles to fit into a world that more often than not, can view her behavior as challenging or difficult to understand. Martin's detailed interactions between Rose's classmates, teachers and father, quickly shows readers how lonely it can be in a world that doesn't always want to take the time to understand you.
Both the positives and negatives of Rose's life make her instantly relatable to readers, and are presented in a way where readers will likely find a little bit of themselves in Rose. Though she herself may not always realize it, Rose also handles adversity - particularly her loneliness - with a quiet strength that shows that maturity and strength can often come from the most unique of places.
As for secondary characters, Martin is adept at giving everyone in Rose's life a personality and charm of their own. I was especially fond of both Rose's uncle for being a quiet pillar of strength in challenging of times, and of course - Rain herself.
Martin does a fine job of keeping Rose's story moving, while also taking the time to focus on the small details and observations which round out her world.
I especially liked Martin's decision to have the book structured like a retrospective recollection being made by Rose. It really emphasizes a positive, open-ending ending.
The relationship between Rain and Rose
The relationship between Rose and Rain is at crux of the novel. We see how Rose sees Rain as an anchor, both in terms of her day-to-day life, but also in terms of her ability to understand and relate to the world at large - including bridging the gap between Rose and her classmates.
Martin's thoughtful handling of the relationship between Rose and Rain shows us how one can be forever changed by a relationship, even if it doesn't last forever, and how that relationship can inspire one to continue to grow.
A frank approach to Rose's challenges
From beginning to end, it's important to note that Martin also never minimizes or compartmentalizes Rose's struggles in any way. She's very honest about the fact that Rose's teachers and classmates occasionally find her a challenge, and that Rose doesn't always fit into the world around her. Rose herself also recognizes that her responses to things and societal situations are not always easily understood by her peers, teachers or her father.
This honest approach to Rose's challenges not only make her realistic, but also connects her to readers who may know a Rose in their own lives, or may experience similar challenges to Rose. I strongly believe that Martin's approach can help change attitudes and perceptions, by helping readers realize that the Rose in their life is just viewing the world a little differently.
Love in many different forms
One of the underlying themes of Rain Reign, is how love exists and impacts on so many different forms.
There's Rose's love of the small things in life, such as following her schedule, and there's also the physical love that she shows to others and vice-versa, including her uncle and Rain.
There's even the fractured love that exists between Rose and her father. Readers see very early on that Rose's father cannot show her love in the right way, because he suffers from severe issues of his own.
- Mild spoilers ahead-
However, he still loves Rose enough to occasionally try and make her happy - e.g. bringing Rain home - and to make sure that she is taken care of, by the end of the novel. It's not a perfect solution and certainly doesn't justify any of his past behavior - more on this later- but he loves Rose enough to give her up to someone whom he knows will take care of her. It's love in the form of sacrifice, something that is not dissimilar to the decision that Rose eventually makes about Rain.
Martin's reminder that love exists in so many different forms, again underlines the idea that even if we don't always understand someone, they have more in common than we may realize.
Martin doesn't actually provide a definitive or final ending to Rose's story arc, which actually makes the story all the more impactful.
By leaving the story open-ended, readers will undoubtedly continue to imagine Rose continuing to live her life out day-by-day, with the promise of a positive future and tomorrow.
Things to consider:
Educators and parents should probably be made aware that there is a hint of domestic violence throughout Rain Reign.
Rose's father is an alcoholic with a bad temper, and he makes it very clear at several points that he doesn't care to understand Rose's challenges as her uncle does. Instead, he's impatient with her fascination with prime numbers, homonyms and rules, and occasionally lets his anger get the better of him.
While Martin portrays Rose's reaction to her father with an understanding and an innate innocence or patience that both humanizes her father's internal demons and is sure to tug on more than a few heartstrings, the scenes with her father's outbursts may be a little too much for younger, gentle-hearted readers.
For older readers, educators and parents can also take the opportunity to discuss just why Rose's father acts the way he does, including the eventual revelation that he has hidden several key facts from Rose about their life together, and of their family history.
Rose shows readers what it means to view the world through different eyes, and how that different world view can positively impact the lives and the relationships of all those around her. Martin also shows how love, patience and sacrifice can exist in so many different forms, even if we don't necessarily always understand it or see it.
I highly recommend this book for everyone, full stop. I believe that this book will eventually become a much-loved classic, and you should read it immediately.
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About the author:
Ann M. Martin is the author of Ten Rules for Living with My Sister, Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life, and Everything for a Dog, all from Feiwel and Friends. She won a Newbery Honor Award for A Corner of the Universe, and is the author of the beloved Baby-sitters Club series. She lives in upstate New York.