Cori McCarthy’s The Color of Rain. Releasing May, 2013
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Cori McCarthy’s first novel, The Color of Rain. It has been a while since I’ve read something that I wanted to recommend to people even before I had finished it. My five second pitch sounded something like, “Firefly meets Across the Universe with the poetry of Before I Fall.”
But even as I write this now I don’t think that it goes far enough. The raw intensity of The Color of Rain is embedded in McCarthy’s protagonist’s, Rain’s, poetic perceptions of her vast universe. Rain is as fierce and fiery as her red hair, but she’s also vulnerable and broken, drowning in the loss of her family from a disease (reminiscent of Alzheimer’s) known as being Touched.
The only people that Rain have left is her little brother, Walker, and her best friend, Lo. When Rain trades her body to a captain named Johnny in order to save her brother’s life, her primary goal is to use Johnny to get through the Void –the expansive space between her home planet of Earth City and The Edge, a planet that is rumoured to be so advanced that its technologies could possibly save her brother. But, when Rain stumbles upon a secret, she has to choose between her family and saving hundreds of lives.
Among all of the things that make up this solid Science Fiction novel– intricate descriptions of the space ship, lush planets with unbreakable glass floors, and greasy pollution-filled cities– is the compassionate description of a girl’s first sexual experience, and the harsh brutality of physical and emotional abuse. The rawness of this novel made it sometimes difficult to read, but by then I was too invested in Rain. While Rain learns how to disconnect herself, she re-emerges stronger, re-claiming her power and her body.
McCarthy is also wise enough to know when it is appropriate to add in a little bit of humour in an otherwise dark narrative. The dialogue and flirtations between Rain and a Mec–an advanced human from The Edge– who helps her, Ben, is precious and there are a few jokes tucked in at just the right moment that made me chuckle.
As many of you know, my favourite novels are the ones that not only asks the deep questions, but struggles with the difficult answers, pushing a protagonist to decide what kind of person s/he wishes to be. This is particularly powerful in YA because by its definition, the reader is just trying to figure this out for the first time. But I know that this isn’t just true for teens, we are all trying to navigate this vast universe and come back from our own dark voids, a little weary and shaken but with the hope that what we carry with us is the imprint of our history and that which came before us. For then we can tell our own stories.