I give this new book...1.5 dogs out of five.
When I first read about this book in an article, I became interested, because it's about a girl with autism. I like books with main characters with autism, since I myself am autistic and strive to see my struggles depicted in fictional form. My favorite book of all time is Mockingbird, and I wrote a review of that here some years ago. I requested it at the library this past week so I could read it before deciding whether to buy it or not. So what's my verdict? Uh...I'm not buying it. I REALLY wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I set my expectations too high and it crashed and burned. Very hard. Which is a shame, because it could have been so much better, and the book has many good qualities. But there's just so much wrong with it that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth!
So the story's about a girl named Rose who is obsessed with homonyms and rules. Her teachers, classmates, and father can't understand her for the life of them, and although she tries to get by every day, things don't always go her way and she unknowingly causes trouble. One day, her dad brings home a random dog, whom she names Rain, as she was found during a rainy day. Later, when a hurricane hits, her father gets reckless and lets Rain out. After the storm, she doesn't come back. Rain is eventually found, but Rose learns that Rain belongs to another family, and she has to make a very hard decision.
I'm sorry if I sound really irritated in this review, but you know what? I'm saying it straight up: I AM irritated. Why? I'm going to get straight to the point. The book's biggest problem? Rose's father. Remember in my Mockingbird review that I initially disliked Harold because of the way he treated Caitlin? Well, as of now, I take that back, because Caitlin's dad is a FREAKING SAINT compared to the completely detestable jerkbutt that is Wesley, Rose's dad! GOOD FREAKING GOD, he completely ruined the entire book for me! He is a straight up jerk in every sense possible! He constantly berates Rose for being who she is, doesn't even TRY to understand her even a little bit, acts like he's the big boss of everything when he isn't, does stupid things, refuses to admit he does stupid things, never apologizes for anything he does (he does in one chapter but I feel it came off as really hollow, and for GOOD reason!), acts like she causes trouble all the time (which, admittedly, she does, but he doesn't even TRY to help her or teach her ways to handle situations more appropriately!), God, the list goes on! He even calls Rose a brat right to her face, tries to hit her, and makes a HUGE deal out of Rose trying to do a GOOD thing and give Rain back to her owners! Why? Because to him, she wasn't grateful for the fact that he brought a STOLEN dog to her. God, he's worse than my older sister! Why hasn't anyone killed him yet?! He is an ableist jerk, through and through! I hate him so much I smacked some pages of the book, he got on my nerves THAT much! Yes, I admit, he has his problems too, and from what I've read the Howards are poor, but still! That is absolutely NO excuse to treat Rose like that and act like she's some kind of perpetual troublemaker! Even her doing a nice thing is supposedly more trouble for Wesley! God, it's a good thing Rose had Weldon, Wesley's brother! He made the book tolerable! He's a much better parent to Rose than Wesley could even think of hoping to be! Every time Wesley opened his mouth, I wanted to throw the book at the wall! The twist at the end only made me happy for Rose.
Phew! Now that I got that elephant out of the room, let's move on. Yeah, I will admit, this book is very flawed, and Rose's father isn't the only thing that bogged the book down. I do admit, some of the stuff about homonyms annoyed me, and the fact that they always popped up in parentheses all throughout the book really took me out of the story. I didn't think they were really necessary. Plus, the way Rose's disability and struggles were presented in the book left a bad taste in my mouth. One of the reasons I liked Mockingbird was that even though Caitlin occasionally caused trouble and did some inappropriate things, she wasn't defined by them, and some people around her did learn to get past her autism and like her for who she is. Some people at least TRIED to help her understand the world around her in calm, appropriate ways, and never did they resort to yelling and berating her like she was some delinquent, and they actually appreciated the kind things she did for them. Basically, Caitlin's setbacks were portrayed as just that: setbacks. The negative aspects of her disability are brought to light, but the book didn't paint Caitlin's disability as being a bad thing. Rain Reign on the other hand...people are constantly annoyed with Rose, Rose constantly does stupid things, hardly anyone even TRIES to help her and understand her and teach her appropriate ways to handle situations in a calm way, practically everyone picks on her and loses her temper with her, and while I do agree her outbursts were unacceptable and some reactions were understandable and even justified, the way her dad and other people kept treating her made it seem like the story has it out for Rose just for being autistic. I got similar flack with my Pretty Cure fan fic, and now I can see why! There was hardly anything positive about Rose's situations, and hardly anyone made any attempt to understand Rose and see past her flaws! Weldon is one of them, yes, but a character like him can only go so far, especially when 85% of the cast consists of annoying jerkbutts, closed-minded adults like the bus driver, or bullies who pick on Rose and call her retard every chance they get. No adult even scolds the kids on the bus for picking on Rose! At least in my fan fics, I try to always have an adult punish the kids for their transgressions or even call them out on it so that it doesn't get ignored or make the bullies come off as karma houdinis!
Now, this isn't to say the book is bad, and this isn't to say all the characters are bad or poorly written. I really liked Weldon, as he was pretty much the only character who bothered to even TRY to understand Rose and love her for who she is. Rose herself is a good, well developed, well rounded character. Even though I was annoyed by some of her outbursts sometimes, I liked that she actually was kind and compassionate, just having trouble understanding her own feelings, much less aritculating them. I liked that she did try to befriend one girl named Parvani, but I wish their friendship got developed a little more. I would have liked to see them interact. I'll take Parvani over jerbutt Wesley any day! Some characters who I initially disliked got better over the course of the book and acknowledge the things Rose tries to do for Rain. But they're still so underdeveloped that they don't really do much more than that. Other parts of the book are really well written, and I liked reading about Rose's thoughts on everything. I liked that Rose was heckbent on trying to do good by Rain and find her original owners, even if it meant losing a potential friend. She's determined, passionate, and kind. Not only that, Rain Reign actually rectified an issue I had with Mockingbird: actually having Rose understand the concept of empathy and having Weldon explain it in a way she could understand and take to heart. That was one of my biggest issues with Mockingbird: people not really teaching Caitlin how to do things and just expected her to just KNOW what to do and say. Weldon actually tries to teach Rose certain concepts and explain them in ways she understands. He's pretty much the only character who does it, yes, but better than nothing, right?
Unfortunately, I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't. The way Rose and everyone around her is portrayed doesn't make this a very enjoyable book, especially for someone with autism. I identified with Rose, but I'm appalled and disgusted by the other characters' treatment of her. You CAN write a story without having everyone hate everything about the main character and acting like her very existence is nothing but a liability! It's ableist and offensive! Then again, I have no right to say this because I'm guilty of such things in my fan fic and got backlash for it, though I'm working on rectifying that. Sorry. I didn't enjoy this book at all. I tried, but I just couldn't enjoy it. Rose's father should die in a fire. Taking him out of the book or even revamping his entire character would be a MAJOR improvement. Sad to say this probably won't happen.
If you want to read a book about a girl with autism, go read Mockingbird. Rain Reign has some good qualities, but its negative view of Autism and its frustrating, detestable minor characters completely overshadow everything else.