The Rain by Virginia Bergen, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 17th July 2014
One minute sixteen-year-old Ruby Morris is having her first proper snog with Caspar McCloud in a hot tub, and the next she’s being bundled inside the house, dripping wet, cold and in her underwear. Not cool. As she and Caspar shiver in the kitchen, it starts to rain. They turn on the radio to hear panicked voices – ‘It’s in the rain . . . it’s in the rain . . . '
That was two weeks ago, and now Ruby is totally alone. People weren’t prepared for the rain, got caught out in it, didn’t realize that you couldn’t drink water from the taps either. Even a drip of rain would infect your blood, and eat you from the inside out. Ruby knows she has to get to London to find her dad, but she just doesn’t know where to start . . . After rescuing all the neighbourhood dogs, Ruby sets off on a journey that will take her the length of the country – surviving in the only way she knows how.
I love end of the world and apocalyptic disaster books. I was hooked on the initial description of 'The Rain' which described it as a story about survival in the face of a truly terrifying natural disaster. What would you do if you discovered that there was something in the rain which could kill you? How would you survive without water? This is the predicament faced by the characters in the book. This initially sounded really great but unfortunately, although there were some elements of it that I enjoyed, I didn't particularly like the overall tone of the book or some of the character choices that were made.
The thing that stood out for me the most was the unusual and quite quirky narrative voice of the main character. Fifteen year old Ruby is facing the end of life as she knew is but she still manages to find time to fixate on the fact that she snogged the gorgeous Caspar and doesn't have to go to school. I know this might be more realistic than somebody suddenly discovering that they have incredible survival skills and can be the one to save the world, but for me, I just found it a bit annoying and shallow. Ruby is such an unlikely heroine. She makes mistakes and gets herself into trouble and seems to only manage to survive by luck alone. She isn't someone that I would want by my side if the world was ending.
I also thought that the slightly humorous and extremely quirky narrative didn't always meld well with the dire situation that Ruby was facing. The story got extremely strange in places too, such as when Ruby is taking part in the looting of shops, not for food and fresh water mind you but for jewellery and fancy clothes.
Overall, I loved the concept for the book and I think the idea of the rain being contaminated was brilliant and one which could have made for a stunning story. Unfortunately, I didn't love Ruby or the blend of humour with apocalyptic disaster and this made it a bit of a struggle to get to the final page.