Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Sketch: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier

By: Leah Scheier
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: A dramatic new novel about the bond between a teen and her twin brother.

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of her life. Before she even knew what autism meant, she's been her twin brother's connection to the hostile world around him. She's always prepared—when her father abandons them, when her mother gets sick, when Ethan is tortured by bullies from school—Rain is the reliable, stable one holding them all together. She's both cautious carer and mad chef, preparing customized meals for her family and posting crazy recipes on her cooking blog.

Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and she's sure that nothing will ever change—until one night when her world is turned upside down by a mistake she can't take back. As her new romance with her long-time crush and her carefully constructed life begins to unravel, she discovers that the fragile brother whom she's always protected has grown into a young man who no longer needs her. And now, for the first time, she finds that she needs him.

First Thoughts After Finishing: What a rollercoaster!

Initially I was drawn to the synopsis of this book because it features a character with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I teach at a school for autistic children, so I was curious to see how an autistic teenager would be represented in literature. Add to that a neurotypical twin and what seemed like a dramatic contemporary plotline, and I was sold. And Leah Scheier did not disappoint.

For as long as Rain can remember, she’s been taking care of her family. Her twin Ethan has autism, and she has been his support and caretaker, helping him navigate safely through the world. When he couldn’t talk or didn’t understand why something was happening, she was there to fix things. When Ethan became gluten-free, she started inventing new recipes and blogging about them. Rain thinks she has her family’s entire future mapped out. But Ethan, who never changes, seems to be changing. And one misstep has her questioning what she thinks. And if Rain isn’t holding everything together, who will?

Rules of Rain isn’t the kind of book that you fly through, but it is the kind of book that draws you in and doesn’t let you go. I started reading this on vacation, and I found myself wanting to steal moments to read to see how everything developed. This book is about relationships: Rain and Ethan, obviously; Rain and her parents (her mother is dysfunctional, to put it mildly), Rain and her crush, which unfolds in an interesting way, and Rain and her friends, who are purely awesome. I would have loved to have seen more from her friends, particularly Hope. She is completely endearing and a great best friend to Rain, and I wish that we had been able to read more of her storyline.

Then there is Ethan and the treatment of ASD. Excuse me while I hop onto my soapbox for a moment. There’s a saying about autism: If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person with autism. Each person is different, which is why it’s considered a spectrum. Still, certain tendencies are common. I thought Ethan’s manifestation of autism was handled very well; it was most peoples’ treatment of Ethan that bothered me. People with autism shouldn’t be ridiculed for it any more than people should tease others who are different. Moreover, autism isn’t a disease to be “fixed” or “cured.” It’s just a different approach to the world. Autistic individuals are still capable of leading richly fulfilling lives complete with any experiences they want. And with that said, I’ll hop down now.

I loved reading about the world from Ethan’s point of view. Even after working with autistic individuals for a number of years, it’s still not always possible to fathom how their brain works, but it is fascinating to explore. In a way, this book was as much Ethan’s journey as Rain’s, and I was cheering for him every step of the way. I would love to know what happens next for him.

Overall, this book took me through every emotion, and I never stopped caring about the characters or where they would end up. Nothing was one-sided, and that was such a refreshingly honest depiction of real life. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Most Memorable Aspect: The treatment of ASD.


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