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Brooks, Kevin. Kissing the Rain.
Chicken House/Scholastic, 2004 [336p]
ISBN 0-439-57742-X $16.95
Reviewed fom galleys
Hard choices have been the mainstay of the young adult novel since the inception
of the genre, back when Jerry chose to defy the Vigils in Cormiers The
Chocolate War (BCCB 7/74); it was also true when Susan went with the crowd
in Duncans Killing Mr. Griffin (10/78), or, more recently, when
Young yielded his independence to his charismatic best friend in Giles
Shattering Glass (5/02). These novels set up situations wherein there
is a right choice, though that right choice may be the painful one, the one
regrettably left untaken, or even the doomed one. Sometimes, however, a right
choice is a luxury that an individual simply doesnt have, and the only
free will one can exercise is to favor one evil over anotherand neither
is the lesser. Such is the situation of Kevin Brooks Moo Nelson in Kissing
Moo is a largely miserable teenager, tormented at school as the fat kid (by predictable downpours of abuse he terms the rain), depressed by the sameness and limitations of his home. His favorite occupation is to hang out on the footbridge over the highway, watching the cars go by (hes a bit of a car aficionado) and enjoying the soothing noise and motion, and one day from this vantage point he observes a strange event, a peculiar altercation between the driver of one car and the people in another. After talking to the police, he finds himself caught in a power struggle. One police officer wants him to change his story to ensure the rigged altercation gets the driver, a known criminal, put in prison as planned. Other officers want Moo to keep to his story (especially if it means implicating the crooked cop who staged the event and who wants Moo to lie), and so does the drivers posh lawyer and the driver himself, a menacing figure who makes it clear that Moo will have to pay a high price if he lies.
British author Brooks (Martyn Pig, BCCB 9/02) creates a believable, idiosyncratic voice for Moo, making him vivid as a person in his own right and not just as the object of events. Though his quandary is intricate, its also clearly and bleakly presented: the truth gets Moo the enmity of a police officer who has the ability to put Moos father away for welfare fraud and a frightening connection to a dangerous underworld figure; a lie gets him the enmity of that underworld figure but puts him away, while keeping his father out of jail (I know I AINT doing the right thing, thinks Moo despairingly, cos there AINT no right thing to DO. Theres just 2 wrong things). Brooks adds interesting complications with the changes in Moos status at school (as a result of his chief persecutors connection to one of the police officers as well as his increased notoriety) and his awkward relationship with his fellow bully-prey, Brady, who makes a foolish decision as a result of Moos changed status in an attempt to garner his own increased credibility. Theres an understandable change in Moo as, trapped, he begins to grow weary and indifferent to the price he may pay, and as he sets out to resolve the situation with a third possibility, one so dark and drastic neither side will expect it.
Most bracing of all is the books refusal to compromise its toughness. Moo isnt in a dilemma because hes a kid and therefore cant see the long-term view, but because this situation offers no acceptable way out. Thats not a quandary that usually appears in literature for young people, but its certainly one that occurs in real life. The psychological-thriller element of this absorbing novel will definitely appeal to readers, but many will also grimly empathize with the no-exit nature of Moos life. (Imprint information appears on p. 224.)
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Cover illustration by James L. Amos/Corbis from Kissing the Rain ©2004.
Used by permission of The Chicken House/Scholastic, Inc.
This page was last updated on February 1, 2004.