Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin Book Review

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends (Macmillan Kids)
Release Date: October 7, 2014

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms and prime numbers, some of the more obvious manifestations of her Asperger's syndrome. When her father brought her home a dog, she gave him the name Rain which has two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which makes him extra special. With an impatient father who drinks a bit too much, Rain has quickly become her friend and refuge. When Rain gets lost in a storm, Rose begins a search for her dog, using her OCD like tendencies to her advantage. But what happens when you find out your dog may belong to someone else?

When people ask how I liked this book, I always (half joking) say that I shouldn't have read it the week before we were scheduled to have a meeting with my entire family regarding my brother with Aspergers. Therefore, I gave myself a bit of distance before I reviewed this book, hoping to see it in a more analytical rather than emotional state.

The amount of books out there that include characters with disabilities is on the rise, although still only making up a very tiny portion of the books currently in print. Of those, even fewer of them have the main character with the disability, usually settling for the perspective of a friend or sibling. (This is not a criticism, but simply a fact. Sometimes that viewpoint is necessary.) That makes this book very unique. When I first began my thesis on disabilities in children's literature, I did so because I was helping create a reading list for my then 17-year-old brother and I was having trouble finding books with characters like him. At the time, I found one title that featured a character with Asperger's (Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork) and the author was pretty non-committal with a diagnosis. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine has now been added to this list, but unless someone knows something I do not, this is the third book that I know of for children that has a character with diagnosed Asperger's.

On the story side, I enjoyed the character of Rose. She has her obsessions, which is normal for someone with Asperger's, but I found them to be interesting rather than annoying. Homonyms and prime numbers are how Rose makes sense of the world, a world that is confusing and full of perils for someone like her. Although she loves her father, he is a dangerous figure in her life, incapable of understanding her or giving her the type of love that she needs to succeed. Her Uncle is instantly likeable, although at times I almost felt like the author was trying to create a good vs. evil type scenario, which made me uncomfortable. Her father is painted as complex and I cannot fully villainize him because of this. It was overall, a rather melancholy story, reminiscent of Because of Winn Dixie. Rose will be okay and things may even improve for her, but I don't know what the future holds for a child like her. I didn't see the ending as entirely happy, only better, which may be the point.