Shouting at the Rain is an okay story. It won’t shoot to the top of my Recommendations list for middle grade readers the way Hunt’s other works, Fish in a Tree and One of the Murphys did. This one was a 3.5/5 star read for me.
Delsie lives with her Grammy on Cape Cod. When we meet her she is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her summer friend, Brandy, as tourist season is beginning–especially since her two best friends from school will be busy rehearsing for the local production of Annie all summer. When Brandy arrives, however, she is wearing makeup and dressed in a more trendy fashion than Delsie expects. Although Delsie has always lived with her grandparents she has not given serious thought to the situation until her friend Aimee (who will be playing Annie) asks her what it’s really like to be an orphan. This question causes Delsie to begin looking at many different aspects of her life from different angles. As those middle years are when most of us begin our struggle to understand and become the people we feel we are, it requires us to use insight in acknowledging both our vulnerabilities and our strengths. This seems to be the story that Hunt wants to tell in Shouting at the Rain. She states clearly in her Dear Readers section at the end of the book:
“It’s not what you look at that counts, but what you see.”
This is an important facet of Shouting at the Rain–this idea that people can look at the same situation and see different things.
When a new girl, Tressa, the same age as Delsie and Brandy joins them this summer Delsie is confronted with an individual whose blatantly unkind behavior goes unchallenged by Brandy. This situation–the ‘mean girl’ whose behavior exemplifies malice under the guise of it being perfectly ‘normal’–occurs repeatedly in social situations in middle school (and beyond). The hurt Delsie feels when Brandy is unable or unwilling to see Tressa’s behavior for the bullying it is, is also a common situation. So many middle grade readers will identify with Delsie’s confusion from trying to please Tressa, to trying to ignore the behavior, to feeling abandoned by someone she thought was a good friend. Delsie’s journey to a place where she can both reject Tressa’s behavior completely and accept Brandy’s inability to do so provides both hope and a basic roadmap for young readers searching to do the same. Hunt absolutely succeeds in having Delsie see herself and her life from a different perspective, which does change the way she feels about herself and helps her find her voice. This particular aspect of the story is what felt most genuine to me.
My only complaint is that the central story (discussed above) was told in choppy bits and pieces with smaller bits thrown in. Because there are moments that seem to be completely tangential to the plot the rhythm of the story does not flow easily and is sometimes disorienting. The ending felt more like the author’s voice than a conversation between two young people. The secondary storyline involving Ronan, his father and anger management is not fleshed out in any kind of realistic fashion. Consequently, for me Ronan’s character never really felt genuine or terribly important to the story. I almost feel as if Ronan merited his own story instead of trying to tack his onto Delsie’s. Also, the idea of weather being a metaphor could have worked if it was consistent throughout the book–but it is not; it’s used only when the author clearly wants to say something through the characters.
I did not dislike Shouting at the Rain; as stated earlier, I think it has an important message to convey and parts of Delsie’s experience do that beautifully. A 4th – 6th grade reader could find the book a successful independent read. A brilliant stroke by the author at the end of the book is to reveal that she has used anagrams in the names of the characters and challenge readers to solve them! Whether or not you choose to try Shouting at the Rain and you have not yet read Linda Mullaly Hunt’s other work, I HIGHLY recommend both Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphys as insightful, deeply character-driven middle grade reads!