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Book Review: The Color of Rain

The Color of Rain

by Cori McCarthy

Plot: Rain White lives in Earth City, where she ekes out a living trying to take care of her little brother, Walker. That is, until Walker becomes one of the Touched, people who have a degenerative brain disease. If the authorities find out about Walker, they’ll take him away. No one knows what happens to the Touched after the authorities take them, and Walker is the only family that Rain has left.

Determined to protect her brother, Rain makes a deal with an offworlder, Johnny, who promises Rain and Walker passage through space to the Edge, where the bioengineered Mecs may be able to cure Walker. In exchange for passage, Rain agrees to be Johnny’s girl. But Rain has no idea what she’s getting into. Onboard ship, Rain learns that Johnny has many girls, and runs a prostitution ring. But Johnny has even darker secrets than that, and soon Rain must make a choice whether to get involved for the greater good, or to continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that she and Walker survive and make it to the Edge.

Notable Characters:

  • Rain White. Tough girls are becoming more common in YA fiction, but very few of them are as tough as Rain. Rain lives through forced prostitution and psychological and physical torture, yet she survives. More than that, Rain manages to keep her essential self intact, and even to help others when she can.
  • Johnny. The mysterious ship captain who makes a deal with Rain to take her and Walker off-planet. About the nicest thing you can say about Johnny is that he’s seriously messed up. Although he has a certain dark charisma, he is not a nice person. He’s not a cardboard villain, though; he’s a complex character, and as the book progresses, you learn some things about him that almost, but not quite, elicit sympathy.
  • Ben Ryan. A Mec who is bound to Johnny and controlled by him. Ben and Rain become friends, as much as two people can be friends when friendship could mean death for either of them. 

Worldbuilding:

Earth City is a gritty, futuristic city where everyone lives a soulless life going from one factory shift to the next, and those who don’t even have that live on the ragged edge. Most of the book takes place on board Johnny’s ship, which is well-developed and has its own, er, twisted culture. The rest of the universe is touched on though small scenes and interactions with other people. The worldbuilding is effective, although not extensive.

Things I liked:

  • Strong, interesting, well-developed characters. Rain is a fantastic character who will capture your heart and have you rooting for her. Ben is also a great character, who seems off-putting and alien at first, but as Rain gets to know him and bonds with him, so does the reader. Even the minor characters are interesting and vividly drawn, although Rain’s friend Lo is pretty much the clichéd “Hooker with a heart of gold.”
  • Pacing & suspense. I read this book on vacation and stayed up late into the night reading, unable to stop, my stomach twisted into knots for worry over Rain for most of that time. 
  • There is romance, and I like the way it’s portrayed (and thankfully, Johnny is not the romantic interest). It recognizes that a girl who has been subjected to the things Rain has been through is going to have emotional baggage to deal with, and that desire and attraction won’t be unencumbered.

Issues

  • It’s not really an issue, but as is probably clear from the above description, this is a book that would be most appropriate for mature teens. The subject matter is difficult and, at times, brutal, although the actual sexual encounters are not overly explicit and are described in mostly vague terms. The horror comes through without the scenes being titillating, as is appropriate to the subject matter.
  • I did wonder how Rain managed to be a virgin at the start of the book, while living on the edge in a place like Earth City.
  • Unfortunately, I didn’t really see much diversity in this future.

Who would like this book:

  • Mature teens who like a character-driven novel and aren’t put off by reading about forced prostitution.

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**FTC required disclosure:** Review copy given by the publisher at BookExpo America to facilitate writing a review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
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