BookBrowse Reviews Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

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Rain Reign

by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin X
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
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  • Published:
    Oct 2014, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different - but readers will fall in love with her.

Ann M. Martin possesses the rare ability to speak well and clearly for every character in her book. Indeed I'm having a hard time writing this review without tearing up with the emotion she made me feel, not just for Rose (rows) – the story's narrator – but for her father, her uncle, her teacher, and for Rain (reign) her dog. It is all via the guileless voice of Rose who, with dispassionate descriptions that cut like a hot knife through butter, replaces her sense of muzziness with clarity. Ms. Martin knows that if Rose can understand what's going on and what people are feeling, so too can I.

You see, 12-year-old Rose Howard's "official diagnosis" is "high functioning autism, which some people call Asperger's syndrome." She has three obsessions; homonyms (also known as homophones, words that sound alike but are spelled differently), rules and prime numbers. In a world where things can become overwhelming, these are the things that ground her. Disruptions in Rose's routine cause her to begin reciting prime numbers out loud, thus shutting out the disturbance. The practice is a prelude to all out panic and people close to her know this and must intervene, calming her. But homonyms – ah, homonyms. Discovering new (gnu) ones are Rose's happy eureka moments; moments she celebrates with anybody who shares (or pretends to share) her nearly unbridled joy. She keeps a list, adding to it as these words occur to her.

By necessity, Rose's life is simple and orderly. She lives with her garage mechanic father Wesley; goes to a regular school but has an aide; gets rides to and from school from her father's brother, Uncle Weldon; and she cooks dinner after doing her homework so it's ready whenever Wesley gets home from either the J&R Garage or The Luck of the Irish bar. One rainy night Wesley brings a surprise home with him. The stray yellow Labrador-mix dog "with seven white toes" that Rose names Rain bonds with her immediately. They become inseparable friends, and Rain even follows Rose to school one day.

All Rose knows of her mother is that she left them long ago. All that remains of her is a shoebox of disparate odds and ends that Wesley keeps on a shelf in the closet and that Rose periodically sorts through. She ponders each item, puzzling over its significance to a woman who would leave behind items that might remind her of her daughter rather than take them with her.

Rose and Wesley have a difficult, complicated relationship. It is clear that he is doing the best he can, given the limited resources available to him. He's a single father, with a low-paying job and a drinking problem. With no time or capacity for complex emotions he alternates between two demeanors: barely tolerating life and full on rage. While he has never beaten Rose or Rain, the two have developed finely honed instincts that can instantly take his measure; they know when to maintain a low profile, and when to relax. Wesley loves Rose though, and is proud of what little he has been able to provide for her, especially the stray dog that has brought her so much pleasure.

One night a powerful nor'easter sweeps through town, flooding the street in front of the Howard home, cutting them off from the rest of the world. Rose awakens to no electricity, no phone and worst of all, no Rain. The dog needed to go out and Wesley opened the door, even though the storm was still raging. By morning there is no sign of her. Before long, Rose devises an elaborate plan to locate her lost dog. In the meantime she explains, "The afternoons are long. They seem to be full of empty space – space between looking through the box and starting my homework, space between finishing my homework and starting dinner. I don't know what to do with the space. Rain used to fill it."

See what I mean? I don't know of a more apt description of loss. Do you?

Rose is the kind of fictional character that anyone would want to know. I realize Rain Reign is a middle grade book, but some of the finest fiction of all time has been written for young audiences. This is one of them. There is something here that all readers – adults and young people – can benefit from. Should benefit from. I know I have.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review was originally published in November 2014, and has been updated for the October 2014 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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