HALLOWEEN POST: Red Rain by R.L. Stine

“Something wrong with this rain. The brightness of the sky and the darkness of the rain drops. Red…as if all the blood of all who had died here last night was raining down on her. The blood of all the victims pouring doom over the island, a final terrifying drenching good-bye.” ~~ R.L. Stine in Red Rain

From Krista’s Perspective:

In honor of Halloween next week, Lauren and I decided to take on R.L. Stine’s newest novel, Red Rain. This was an entirely new venture for me because I don’t typically pick up a horror novel in my free time. Ironically, the last time I probably read something of this genre was also R.L. Stine. Way back in grade 6 or 7, I would occasionally borrow a book from Lauren (yes…. that is how long we have been friends) from Stine’s Goosebumpsseries to read by the light of my alarm clock because I knew my mother would never allow it; she would have probably burned it if she found it. These books had taken our school by storm and everyone was reading them. We even had a fellow student appear on one of the episodes aired on YTV; it was a big deal! So now here I find myself countless years later reading the second or third horror novel of my lifetime and it is R.L. Stine all over again.

From the first page, I was intrigued. I found myself getting into the story and enjoyed how it was an easy but enjoyable read. I liked the characters, I was interested in why Lea found herself on the island, and enjoyed how the mystery immediately began to draw you in. Actually, I almost forgot that it wasn’t in fact a mystery but a horror novel. Horror is defined as “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting” (dictionary.com); Stine was quick to deliver. All was well and good until page 66 hit. It was all downhill from there as the gruesome nature of a horror novel began to fill every page. But it was still captivating and kept me turning page after page; a typical Stine novel written by the master of horror.

If you are anything like me, you may feel the following things while reading Red Rain. You will feel yourself grimace as the horror begins to unfold and you read disturbing things that will make you cringe. You will feel a sense of annoyance of how ridiculous Lea is being by randomly bringing home these twins, the fellow victims of a tragically devastating hurricaine. You will feel a sense of dread and an instant chill when you read something like, “They’re in the school”; four small words that will mean nothing out of context and I wouldn’t dream of ruining the moment for you. But the most important thing you will feel is a sense of compassion for poor Mark.

Mark, the husband of Lea, is a child psychologist whom we first meet while he is finishing up a book tour for his recently published controversial book about parenting. He is not entirely innocent or without flaws, but you can see how he is a devoted husband and an absolutely involved and loving parent. Page after page you start to see his life unravel and you can see the devastation begin to take over his life beyond his control. Stine wrote, “A dizziness fell over Mark. No. Not dizziness. Falling, a free fall. Like he was dropping down an endless black hole.” One cannot help but have a strong sense of compassion for this man who slowly becomes disgraced, ruined, and a mostly innocent victim of his circumstance. A scapegoat, the accused, the man on the edge of losing everything.

I always like to include some quotes from the book that I feel capture the important qualities of the book; ones that I hope will intrigue you to pick up your own copy of Stine’s newest novel whether it be during this week leading up to Halloween or later on. So because I don’t want to give away any spoiler alerts, I will close with these.

  • “That’s what makes Le Chat Noir special, dear. It’s the only place on earth where the living share their space with the living dead.” ~~ Margeurite to Lea in the tea shop.
  • “Now she wasn’t a journalist covering the tragedy. Now she was just another victim.” ~~ Lea’s thoughts wandering the island after the devastating hurricaine destroyed everything in its path.
  • “The morning had slipped past. But so what? What did a few hours matter when there was nothing to look forward to but more tears and grief and disbelief and anger and regret?” ~~ Lea’s revealing thoughts upon realizing the truth about the horror consuming their lives.
  • “So many nightmares. Every night. Nightmares pulling me. They’re pulling me into all that death and horror. I can’t get the wailing out of my head. The wailing and the moaning and the crying. It’s like I’m still there” ~~ reflecting on Lea’s inability to leave the horror of Le Chat Noir behind.
  • And then possibly the one I found most chilling: “Daniel may be the match, but I am the fire.” ~~ no explanation for this one. You’ll just have to read to find out!

Rating

Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 4/5
Characters – 3/5 (I found some characters bordering on irritating but enjoyed all others)
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 3/5 (mostly because reading horror isn’t particularly my cup of tea)

Overall Score – 14/20

From Lauren’s Perspective:

I was so excited to undertake the newest R.L. Stine novel, Red Rain, as it was his first foray into adult novels that I have read and I have been a fan for a long, long time. As Krista said, R.L. Stine was at the height of his popularity when we were kids and the books were devoured by most of our peers. This time around, R.L Stine did not disappoint me, as I don’t think he ever could, but at the same time, the book didn’t exactly live up to my expectations either. I think that’s the problem with reminiscing in childhood fancies; the author has so much to live up to in order to prove himself worthy of your childhood love, and when it doesn’t transport you exactly where you long to go, when it doesn’t take you directly back to your childhood, it is so much more of a disappointment. I think that was what happened for me with this novel, I had unfairly high expectations. I expected Stine to bring me back to my 12 year old self, I expected him to make me feel all those horrors I once felt in my youth, and when those expectations weren’t perfectly met, I was left wanting more.

Let me explain further, because I’d like to point out that there was nothing overtly wrong with this book. Rather, it simply wasn’t as thrilling as I remember his novels being when I was an impressionable youth first discovering my love of the written word. See, I have read every one of his Fear Street Novels and remember the excitement I felt every time a new one came out that I picked up at the school book fair. When I heard about his adult novel, I felt the same excitement as when I was a kid. And I did read this book in maybe three days so it definitely had intrigue and definitely left me wanting to know more. The trouble was, it was exactly as I remember his novels from my youth. It was supposed to be his first adult novel, and yet it was still something I could have read as a 12 year old. It was the writing I would consider sub par, and not really that fitting for an adult novel.

The story itself was very compelling. It begins with two creepy little twin boys who are shrouded in mystery and become the very centre of a town tragedy. There is a mysterious back story that slowly unfolds as you read. There was mystery, suspense, gory imagery, shocking revelations, and just enough normality that it was easily believable as something that could have stemmed from truth. The plot definitely had all the makings of a typical R.L. Stine horror, and in that I was very pleased.
As for the characters, they were creepy, and strange, and different, and entirely believable. The mother, Lea, acted oddly throughout the book, causing mystery and wonder with her every action. The father, Mark, was met with pity and concern as you watched his whole life turn upside down. The families first children, Ira and Elena, were average children that most families could relate too. Ira was a quiet, young boy who was unsure of himself and withdrawn from the family while his older sister, Elena, was the opposite: Outspoken, bratty, and very upbeat. She was just a girl becoming a typical teenager. And with the introduction of the new family members, Samuel and Daniel, you have a perfectly rounded family. They were the epitome of creepy and so completely cloaked in the unknown that anything could be expected from them. They could have been anything from completely innocent to absolute devils (but this is R.L. Stine, so I would put my money on the latter). Anyways, as you can see, it wasn’t plot or character that led this book astray. Instead it was simply the writing.
The writing wasn’t atrocious, but it wasn’t good either. It made me think of how people view other artists. With any band or musician, you come to expect each album they release to be at least a little bit different. You expect each new album to maintain what made the musician or artist great, but still desire a change, otherwise it would feel as though you were buying the same album over and over. I think the same can be said of writers. With an author you have loved for so long, you have this desire for what made them amazing to remain intact. You want their trademark writing style to be felt throughout the story, but at the same time, you need a change, you need to watch them grow. Because isn’t that what artists of any kind do? They grow with their craft. So, that was my only criticism of this book. I felt as though my 12 year old self could have been reading one of his fear street novels all over again. And I loved those novels, when I was 12. They were compelling to me then. To my 28 year old self, I guess I wanted more of a challenge. I wanted longer chapters, denser paragraphs, and more complex sentences. To the grown-up me, I just expected a little more eloquence among the gore.
So as I said, the story itself was challenging, and had a twist at the end that I didn’t even begin to guess. The characters were well written to an adult audience, centering around working parents and their children. And the whole story had a very “Children of the Damned” vibe to it which was chilling and gruesome. Overall, I enjoyed reminiscing with my favourite childhood author, but for his next adult novel (which I do hope he will write), I hope for a little bit more depth from the words themselves. There is so much potential for growth.
Rating

Plot – 4 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 2 out of 5
Characters – 4 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4 out of 5 

Overall Score – 14 out of 20

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