Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Review: Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks

Title: Kissing the Rain

Author: Kevin Brooks

Pages: 320

Summary (from back):

The TRUTH? I'll tell you about the truth.

Everyone thinks of Moo Nelson as a nobody. They tease him. Shove him. Call him names. There's only one place where he can escape: the bridge. High above the traffic, Moo can watch the world go by and not worry about anything else.

Until he witnesses a car chase. And a murder.

Suddenly everyone--gangsters and police officers, friends and foes--want the truth from Moo. Or some version of the truth. But Moo isn't sure what's true anymore. He must decide between fact and fiction, loyalty and lonliness, justice and retribution. And he must do it soon...

Henry "Moo" Nelson is, self-admittedly, a loser.

With no one but his only friend, Brady, to help him through a school where nearly everyone is out to get him, his only solace in life is the bridge. Everyday, almost religiously, Moo pedals his bike up towards the interstate and watch the cars pass ("the river" as he calls it), momentarily forgetting his troubles and losing himself in the traffic.

Until, one day, while hanging over the railings, he observes with brutal clarity as one car crashes into another, as one man is pitt against four, and that man falls to the floor in agony. And he watches as that man is shoved off the road, into the oncoming traffic.

And this, as he says, is the beginning of The Truth.

Kissing the Rain is a complete stream of conciousness; Moo, it seems, is talking straight at you, telling these events as he remembers them, in complete honesty, something he rarely gets to do throughout the ordeal. Unfiltered, unrestrained honesty. At times refreshing, at others just plain sad as he invites the reader into the small, lonely world he lives in. Parents who's idea of affection is food--lots and lots of food--and an education that is less about learning and more about making it through the day without too many bruises. He tells this as fact, not exactly indifferent, but not like he's whining, either. Just fact. A sort of "it happens" narrative that protrays more emotion then any adjectives could describe.

Kissing the Rain is written in a both simplistic and complicated format, words repeated and words mispelled and questions ending every sentence. It's set, almost, like Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", with Moo seeming to speak to an undisclosed third party, like a onesided conversation. As an example, here's a bit from the first page:

You wanna know THE TRUTH? I'll tell you THE TRUTH--I'm sick of it. Sick of all that FAT stuff and Callan and Vine and the bridge and the road and the cars and the eyes and the words and the lies...


I wished I'd never been there...never got INVOLVED...

Yeh, THAT'S what I wish. Din't see nothing, dunno nothing. Me? I shoulda kept my big mouth shut. I DIN'T SEE NOTHING, ALL RIGHT?

Yeh, now I know it.

Now I gotta fix things. Do things. Bad things.





You wanna know the TRUTH?

I'll tell you the TRUTH.

Soon, Moo discovers that the alleged murderer is an already convicted felon, the man he allegedly killed a buisness rival, and he witnessed the beginning of a nation-wide scandol, himself put in the middle of two dangerous teams that both want something from him. The police--the supposed "Good Guys"--want him to lie, in favor of putting the defendant into jail in retribution of his past crimes. The defendant--the supposed "Bad Guy"--wants him to tell the truth about what he saw, that he didn't he didn't really see anything. Mr. Brooks manages to convey these two conlicting positions with a sort of scattered, thoughtful prose that practically force-feed issues most people would rather not touch to the reader. Is it right to lie in order for the "greater good", or tell the truth and allow a killer to go free?

Moo is not exactly a likable character. He's real, and that's not always very easy to get into. I think most readers want a definetive bad guy and good guy, and they always want the narrator to be the good guy. But Moo is different; he's not a hero (far from it) nor is he an anti-hero: he just simply is. He represents the middleman, the one trapped between two opposite ends, the one with no team, with no moral standing. He's almost selfish, constantly thinking of how the outcome would effect him, but also worrying about his family's well-being, his friends well-being. He doesn't know what side to take, because both can be described as right and wrong. He's such a stripped, raw character that makes it very difficult for you to like him, but you do anyway, because he seems to be the only one you can root for.

What I love most about Kissing the Rain is the realistic protrayal of school, and how mean kids really are. Now, I love teen romance novels as much as the next guy, but the 'bullying' described is, speaking as a teenager, complete bull. Do you expect me to believe a perfectly 'normal' kid with a quiet disposition will be the subject of cruel, endless bullying? For no reason? Apparently, Mr. Brooks' not buying it. Moo is an obese, socially awkward kid, daily showered by "the rain"--mocking insults shot at him everyday. Not harmlessly beat up, not stuck with 'kick me' signs on his back, not shoved into lockers; simply teased. Some adults would argue, "back in my day, we had to fight" or the classic, "sticks and stones...". But most teenagers would gladly agree that words hurt worse then any beating could. At least when your being punched at, there's a chance of getting out of it with some dignity. When insults are being thrown at you, they don't fade like bruises. Kissing the Rain is so honest (overused word, blehh) that I spent nearly twenty minutes reading the same sentence, almost crying at the subtle reality.

Another thing--there is no definete ending. In the Q and A in the back, Mr. Brooks explains that, while he did recieve harsh critism from readers, he felt that the ending was necessary for the story, and I agree with him. Ending it 'proparly' would suggest a 'proper' ending for such a hefty moral delema, that everything ends so clean and perfect in situations like these. That is not the case. In the end, Kevin Brooks leaves the decision to us, the reader.

...nothing but time.


The days gonna end....


Tomarrow's gonna come...


Tomorrows gonna end...


And what happens then?



GOD knows...


Though I had grown to like Moo, and wanted to know what happened to him, I couldn't imagine a better ending for a better book.

Rating: 10---thrilling, honest and thought-provoking, one of my favorite books of the year.

Also: Make sure to check out Kevin Brooks other novels, including Candy, Martyn Pigand the upcoming Killing God.

Kevin Brooks about his novel, Black Rabbit Summer:


Sarbear said...

Dannie, thanks for being honest with your reviews. I mean like explaining why you did or didn't like things. Some people say it's great and don't explain!

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