Monday, 23 February 2015

'The Rain' (The Rain #1) by Virginia Bergin

*This review will contain spoilers!*

I bought 'The Rain' back in December and I wasn't really sure when I was going to get around to reading it, but when my request to view the second novel, 'The Storm', was accepted on NetGalley, I knew I had to get reading, and get reading fast.
'The Rain' started off a lot better than I'd been expecting it, because I had heard a lot of absolutely horrendous reviews. We get a nice little recap of the past of this world - exactly the same as ours, apart from a couple of years ago an asteroid got a little bit too close to Earth, so scientists blew it up. We don't get much idea of why this is relevant until later on, but it builds a nice and believable history which draws you into the story and makes you want to continue.
Our protagonist, Ruby Morris, is at a party at her friend Zach's house - in a jacuzzi, making out with super hot guy Caspar - when Zach's uber-relaxed and cool parents rush in, screaming at everyone to get inside. Ruby doesn't really know what's going on, and neither do any of her friends, but because they've never seen Zach's parents acting so unhinged they know that they need to follow their commands. Once inside, his parents break the news to them that there's something in the rain, and they all need to stay in the house and keep calm.
However, Caspar has other ideas. He rushes outside in the rain to collect his phone and his MP3 player, both resting in his jeans on the lawn. When he comes back in, nothing happens for a few minutes, but then he starts scratching so violently that he takes chunks out of himself, blood running down his face and pouring out of his body.
Obviously, everyone panics. The warnings of there being something in the rain no longer seem so hilarious, watching the disgusting results of contact playing out in front of you. Zach's mother, Sarah, insists on taking Caspar to the hospital, and Ruby goes with her, desperate to see that the love-of-her-life-even-though-they-only-just-kissed is going to survive this so-called 'fatal' disease.
So far, so awesome. This novel is set in England, and as I live in England I know that one thing we get a shit-ton of is rain. I started reading this book on a clear morning on my way to work, and by the time I'd finished work it was pouring it down, which it has been doing steadily for the last twenty four hours. The novel is set in May, so I didn't question when there were dry days in amongst the rain storms, but there were still a couple of things that didn't add up. The rain starts killing people because of tiny little microbes in the water, which eat through your skin and stream through your blood, devouring you from the inside out. The little alien-microbes are supposedly able to survive in the dry, in the damp, in the hot and in the cold. When rain falls, the ground - roads, fields, hedges - all stays quite wet and damp for a good couple of hours, if not a good couple of days, afterwards. So, a few things that didn't make sense...:
1) Ruby's step-father, Simon, warns her not to touch anything that has been in contact with the rain. He doesn't specify not to touch anything still damp - just anything that has ever been touched by the rain, EVER. When Ruby is on a bike ride home, she's dehydrated, and she remembers a clever little bit of advice; when you're thirsty, find a pebble and put it in your mouth and it will stimulate your glands to produce saliva to hold you out. Ruby stops, picks up a piece of road grit, wipes it off and puts it into her mouth. NOW HOLD ON ONE SECOND! Rain had been falling earlier on in the day. In England, the roads stay wet/damp for a good few hours, so I'm pretty sure that that large chunk of road grit would have been deadly to put in her mouth, yet she survives... Something doesn't add up there.
2) Similarly, before Ruby decides to cycle home, she returns to her friend Zach's house to pick up her phone and the other belongings of hers that she left there in the panic of the murdering rain. She grabs Caspar's phone and MP3 player, both of which had been out in the rain. Another action that made me put a question mark over whether this girl should really be surviving this scenario...
3) There are a few more, but I'm going to keep it to a more concise list instead of ranting about all of the improbabilities that are scattered throughout. At a late stage in the novel, Ruby decides that she's going to run off through a field in an attempt to get to her father's house. It had been raining earlier on, and if one thing definitely holds water it is grass/crops in a field. There have been times when I've walked through a field two or three days after it has been raining and it's still been soaking wet in there. Furthermore, at this point of her adventure she was wearing flip flops, notoriously well-known for letting in the wet. Seeing as this particular scene is set in my home town of Swindon (with the description of the golf course and the beautiful lake leading me to assume it's set at Coate Water, only ten minutes away from my home) I know this area like the back of my hand, and I know that it gets so extremely boggy that the wet gets in even if you're wearing thick and sturdy shoes, so this definitely should have been the time when Ruby got struck down by the disease.
Now don't get me wrong, I didn't create this universe so I don't know whether those things would really be dangerous, or even fatal. Possibly, a certain amount of time after the rain has stopped, it will be okay to touch items that had been out in it. But if you knew you could be eaten from the inside out, would you ever really have the courage to attempt it? Would you really pick things up from off of the ground and put them into your mouth? Our protagonist is fifteen, so we can't really expect her to question and question again every action that she considered, but with Simon drilling into her head over and over "THINK!", you would think that she'd do that once in a while.
If I'd been absolutely loving 'The Rain', and those issues were the only things that had cropped up throughout, I might have been able to let them slide. However, as well as there being a lot of things that just didn't seem to add up, I just hated the protagonist. At multiple times throughout the novel I just wanted to wring this girls neck, and I had to keep reminding myself "Alyce, she's only fifteen, she's allowed to do stupid and childish things", but I know that if I'd been put into this situation three years ago I would have been a lot more logical about everything.
For example: the shopping trips. OH MY GOD THE SHOPPING TRIPS. "Ooh, my mother, brother and step-father are all dead - might as well go and get some nice clothes and some make-up!" "Hm, boring old Darius made us stop to look for food and water, might as well pick up some magazines!" "Ooh, I might be going to a sanctuary soon, I really need a special dress for this occasion!" ...I just wanted to scream out loud so many times. I understand that there would always be a desire there, to just walk into any shop you wanted and take all of the things that you desired. I understand that, really, I do. But deciding to pick up tiaras and flip flops just does my head in. If anyone in their right mind decided to do that the second the world started to end, they would deserve to be eaten from the inside out by tiny aliens.
Furthermore, the make-up! I lost count of the amount of times that this girl decided to reapply her make-up, or pick up more make-up, or panicked about how her face looked. At one point, she questioned her priorities, saying "Mobile, friends, Caspar. Priorities, Ruby." ...Retrieving her mobile phone from Zach's house was her top priority: not her family, not herself, not how they were going to have enough water and food to survive forever. If you're in a apocalypse, please don't bother with make-up, it's not a logical thing to do. No one is going to care what you look like, especially when you end up dead because you just wanted to spend a bit longer searching for the perfect lipstick so you forgot to find food or drinkable water.
The final thing that really annoyed me about this character was her completely and utterly judgmental attitude. Darius Spratt saves her when she faints, offering her water, and all she can think is "Speccy, spotty, spoddy, nerdy, nobody freak. [...] Girls like me don't even acknowledge the existence of boys like Darius Spratt. It's a basic law of nature." She isn't grateful to him for offering her a drink after she's fainted, she just internally complains about the fact that there is peanut backwash in the liquid. Then later on, when Darius calls her a bully and a snob, both characteristics that I think she displayed multiple times throughout when in relation to him, she has the audacity to be completely shocked and offended.
I could go on, but I should stop myself, or this is going to get to a ridiculous length. I was so beyond excited about reading 'The Rain'; it has a unique premise and if the protagonist had been a little bit older and a little bit more mature it would have been much, much more successful. The scientific explanation, behind how the rain effects you and why, was well thought out and brilliant, with hardly any loopholes. It was all extremely creative, but the premise was let down with the execution. If someone could use the plot from 'The Rain' and write a novel featuring adult characters, it would probably be one of my all time favourite books. But with a protagonist this annoying I can't understand how anyone could enjoy this novel. I couldn't stop comparing this book to 'The Fifth Wave' in my head, because Cassie is in a very similar end-of-the-world-with-aliens situation, but she handles it in a much more mature fashion, and I really needed more grown up behaviour in this novel.
I wouldn't recommend this novel. I'm still going to read the second book, 'The Storm', because I have all of my fingers and my toes crossed that it will get better, but I don't have my hopes up very high. If Ruby could just stop applying make-up and start applying her brain, I'd be much happier with the way this series could turn out. 

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