Red Rain by R. L. Stine
Released 18 October 2012 through Random House
Sigh. SIGH SIGH SIGH SIGH SIGH. I had such high hopes for this book. I haven’t read a good horror in ages and after reading the premise of Red Rain, I was thoroughly excited. R. L. Stine is the mind behind the Fear Street series and Goosebumps, the tv adaptation of which left me with an irrational fear of dummies. Anyone who is called “the Stephen King of children’s literature” is alright in my books, but Stine has said that writing for adults is like a sprinter learning to run a marathon and I can’t help but think that he needs a little more training.
Lea Sutton writes a travel blog and as research for her latest instalment, she travels to the small island of Le Chat Noir (which means ‘The Black Cat’ in French–ominous, yes?) just off the coast of South Carolina. Unfortunately for Lea, the island is about to be visited by an uninvited and unwelcome guest, a devastating hurricane. The hurricane absolutely flattens the island, destroying countless homes and lives. Lea and the two residents who took her in are lucky enough to see the other side of the hurricane and are in shock at the level of devastation on the island. In the aftermath of the storm, Lea finds twin boys on the beach who have survived the hurricane. Their family wasn’t so lucky. Enamoured by the boys, Lea can’t stand to leave them alone on the island and convinces her skeptical husband, child psychologist Mark, that they should adopt the boys. And so, Samuel and Daniel return to Sag Harbour, Long Island, with Lea to join her family.
The twins are incredibly grateful to their new mother, and Lea ensures they have everything they could possibly need to settle in to big city life. Their new siblings, Ira and Elena, and new father, however, aren’t quite so confident about the new family members. The boys make friends with Ira’s classmates at school and, despite their old-fashioned vocabulary, appear to be adjusting well. But the boys aren’t who they claim to be and strange things start happening in Sag Harbour. Within a matter of weeks, Mark is implicated in two murders and the local children become obsessed with the twins’ objective to ‘rule the school’. What does this quest entail? I suppose you’ll have to read it and find out.
I think what annoyed me most about this novel is the character development. I don’t want to come across as rude or snobby but it’s quite obvious that Stine isn’t a regular adult fiction writer. None of the main characters are particularly likeable–they are either making rash and outrageous decisions, or not logically opposing said outrageous decisions with more fervour. There are characters you want to like *cough Mark I’m looking at you cough* but then they go and do morally bankrupt things that make it damn near impossible to sympathise with them at all. Thankfully, the twins are well constructed characters that, despite only wanting to cause pain and trouble, have clear and distinct motivations. Readers might not agree with them, but at least we know why they do what they do.
Red Rain wasn’t an outstanding book. Beyond a crude sex scene, I think most of the content could have passed for a YA thriller (and a better YA thriller at that). But it’s creepy and it’s spooky and if you like your horror books weak with milk and sugar, I think you could find R. L. Stine’s second adult offering quite enjoyable indeed.