Tag Archives: apocalypse

The Rain by Virginia Bergin

Standard

IMG_4096The Rain by Virginia Bergin, paperback novel, 386 pages, published by Macmillan Chidlren’s Books.

Ruby Morris is just a teenager living in a small town in rural England when the end of the world as she knows it arrives in the form of killer rain. One minute she’s passionately kissing the boy of her dreams, the next, people are dying. The merest touch of the poisonous water is enough to kill, wiping out millions within a few days. Ruby sets out across the country to find her Dad, putting her survival skills to the test.

The basis of The Rain is an apocalyptic event, causing a devastating loss of human life. The cause behind the development of killer rain is established clearly and early on in the story, which seems to be rare among books of this genre that I have read. A contaminated water source is a great start for an apocalypse, though I was surprised by the violent and bloody way in which people affected by the water died. Complete loss of a safe water supply is truly a terrifying thought. The story dealt with the short-term requirements of finding safe water to drink and ahelter, but didn’t explore the complications that would arise due to such finite resources. Perhaps the sequel, The Storm, will delve deeper into the more long-term consequences of contaminated rain.

The Rain is written in the first person as Ruby. I tried hard to like Ruby, she’s just lost her family and her friends, and she’s trying to survive in this new and dangerous world, and I could feel sorry for her, but I couldn’t really like her. Before the rain came, she was obviously one of the popular kids, stuck-up, selfish, shallow and egotistical. Not exactly the perfect picture of someone who will rebuild the world post-apocalyspe, but I thought she would start learning to be someone of more consequence on her journey. I didn’t like the way that she treated Darius, as if he was completely beneath her. She refers to him as a nerd, but he is smart and practical, exactly the sort of person you should want on your side if the world ever comes to an end. I was disappointed that Ruby still considered Darius to be socially inferior despite the whole of humanity crumbling about them. And instead of collecting practical supplies, she loots make-up and clothes her mum and stepdad would never have let her wear. Hey, I’ve never been part of an apocalypse, so who knows what crazy things I would do, but I just can’t imagine mascara and sequins will be high on my list of things to do.

I generally quite like apocalyptic and dystopian novels, and this novel was okay, but I didn’t like it as much as I expected. My difficulty in liking Ruby really clouded my enjoyment of the story. The abrupt ending of the story surprised me too, until I realised that there was to be a sequel. The Rain left me with lots of questions. I’m wondering how society will develop without a clean source of water, not only to drink, but to produce food as well. Will the rain become safe again, will there be tests developed to identify safe water? And what happens to Ruby, Darius and Princess? I’m interested enough to read the second book, and it leaves me with hope that Ruby will develop into a more likeable heroine.

Due to the complicated themes contained within this novel, The Rain is most suitable for high school students and up.

 

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

Standard

IMG_1572The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 296 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2013.

Life is normal and reasonably predictable in the Blue Mountains region of Australia, where Fin is a fairly typical teenage boy. He rushes to school, hangs out with his mates, tries to impress the girl he likes, argues with his brother and is disappointed by his parents’ divorce. Such worries quickly become trivial when a nuclear winter descends upon Australia after nuclear missiles are launched between nations in the northern hemisphere. Fin and his little brother, Max, find themselves alone in a world turned upside-down overnight. The landscape is frozen and bleak, the situation grim with little cause for hope. Supplies of food and drinking water are limited and there is no electricity, no running water, and no help to be found.

What a stunning debut novel for Claire Zorn. The Sky So Heavy is an apocalyptic novel for young adults, suitable for high school students and up. I enjoy the genre of apocalyptic novels, and this book did not disappoint, though it was tamer than many of the adult novels I have read, making it much more suitable for younger readers. I highly recommend this book for high school students.

The situation in which Fin and Max find themselves is a terrifyingly realistic scenario, so well written, I could almost feel the desolation, the desperation and the fear. Life could progress just like this if nuclear war were to happen, and that makes this read particularly scary. Reading The Sky So Heavy made me want to go out and stock up on canned food and bottled water!

The characters are well developed, allowing the reader to know them, and conjure them in our imaginations. I liked all the characters, though Max was a little whiney, but what twelve year old brother isn’t! And given that all the parental figures in his life are gone and possibly dead, his reaction to his circumstances seems natural. Fin, Noll and Lucy are older than Max, but still they are faced with the same fears, apprehensions, worries, frustrations and uncertainties. Fin has the added burden of being responsible for Max. In a world that adults would struggle to navigate, this group of teenagers show bravery and compassion that would escape many, but also a strong desire to survive. These feelings are well expressed throughout the book, creating a realistic and compelling experience for the reader.

I will be eagerly watching for future novels by Claire Zorn. I think there will be more brilliance to come from this new author to the field of young adult fiction in Australia.

 

* The Sky So Heavy was an honour book for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.