the best friends you’ll never have

So I said I wouldn’t read it because I hate Sad Dog Books, but I broke down and got it anyway, since the reviews have been so positive.

Rain Reign is a book about Rose, a kid on the autism spectrum who loves homophones. But the book keeps on calling them homoNYMs, and I’m going to put on my Karen Brewer hat and admit that this bothered me. Homonyms have the same pronunciation AND spelling, and homophones just have the same pronunciation. Rose actually goes into this the beginning, and says that her teacher says that homonym is used colloquially for homophone. This is true, but since Ann is writing an entire book on the topic, she could have used this as a springboard to correct this colloquial use that still makes probably even sociolinguists a little bit twitchy. Also, since Rose is very into following rules and not following rules is something that really upsets her, it seems odd to me that she has come to terms with this colloquial misuse of the term.

Okay. That aside, it’s a decent book overall. I like how the dad was portrayed in a nuanced way, instead of just straight up as a villain. You understand that he wants to do his best for Rose, even though he really just can’t. For those of you with the same fears I have, I would say that this book ranks about 5/10 on the Sad Dog Scale. There is a happy ending for the dog, even though Rose is sad. But it’s not like this book, which destroyed me the only time I read it.

Autism is a topic that Ann has centered a book around several times: Inside Out, which I think is excellent; Kristy and the Secret of Susan, one of the most maligned BSC books out of all of them; and a A Corner of the Universe, which I have not read, but received a Newbery Honor Medal. Considering the reviews for this one, I could see a Newbery Honor in its future as well. This book differs from all of those because Ann is actually writing in the first person from the point of view of a person on the spectrum, and not from the point of view of a family member or a baby-sitter. I think she did a good job, but it’s hard for me to judge, since I don’t have much personal experience myself.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts if you’ve read it. Would I say that it’s a must for BSC fans? No. If you’re interested in well-written middle-grade/YA books on serious topics, then I’d suggest it to you. It has less “Ann quirks” than even Family Tree has (i.e., mention of certain things you’ll recognize from Ann’s likes/biography). I’m now thinking that it’s time for me to check out her other well-regarded books like Corner and Belle Teal. Ann is a much better writer than she was in her 80s days, and now that she can take her time with her books, unlike when she was working on BSC, she can come out with some really excellent fiction.

4 Responses To This Post

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chocolatechip15 said, December 22nd, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I read it, too, because of the good reviews. It was a decent book – Rose is a compelling character, and the story definitely drew me in – I didn’t want to stop reading it. And I understand the good reviews — the portrayal of Rose’s special needs due to being on the autism spectrum is very sensitively and well done (as far as I can tell, anyway, not being an expert), and done in a way that would probably help young readers understand children with similar issues. And I imagine children would relate to a lot of the issues in the book – getting and then losing a pet, dealing with storms, family issues, etc.

At the same time, I didn’t love the book. It felt like it was trying too hard to be a current “important” book with the focus on the autism spectrum issues and the superstorm. I live in a part of the country that was seriously affected by superstorm Sandy — though I personally suffered nothing major, I remember how scary that time was, and reading about the superstorm in the book just left me cold. All the details were accurate . .it just didn’t touch me emotionally, at all — maybe again because of that sense that the book was trying too hard.

Overall, if I were a middle grade teacher, I would probably want my students to read this book. I think it’s a good and valuable story. But I don’t love it the way I loved the early Ann books I read as a kid. (I know you did the early Ann read-along earlier this year, and didn’t really care for most of the books — and probably she’s an objectively better writer now. Maybe I feel this way because I first read most of them as a kid — but I also read With You and Without You the first time as an adult and I thought it was beautiful and sad. It brought me to tears several times, and I found it much more moving than I found Rain Reign. Not quite sure why.)

Just my take. Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting post.

greer said, December 23rd, 2014 at 3:48 pm

@chocolatechip15 It may end up one of those books that kids never read on their own, but one that they read for school or summer reading. I didn’t really connect much with it, either.

mallorypike said, January 6th, 2016 at 10:27 pm

I read it earlier this year and I liked it a lot! I’m slightly on the autistic spectrum but not severe enough to affect school, real life, etc. I can still relate to Rose. I wasn’t too interested in the superstorm, though, since there was the hurricane Katrina and sandy and all a couple years ago. The dog subplot was OK, I guess. I mainly liked the very realistic character of Rose. :)

greer said, January 8th, 2016 at 11:12 pm

I’m glad to hear she was realistic! I had hoped from the positive reviews that this was the case, but I don’t have much experience with the subject of autism.

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