Thursday 19 April 2012

Cinnamon Rain

Cinnamon Rain by Emma Cameron (Walker Books)
PB RRP $22.95
ISBN 978-1-921720-45-1
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Three young people experiencing chaos in their lives, how they deal with it and the journey they take is the basis of this extraordinary, moving and well –written verse novel. The story takes place over nearly three years which allows the reader to view the three characters’ lives, the choices they made, and the outcome of those choices.

It opens with Luke’s point of view. Through his voice we learn about the other two main characters, David, known as Bongo, and Casey, the girl they both love. There are other peripheral characters that also have meaningful roles but it’s these three that are the pivotal part of the novel.

The story opens up in the trio’s daily school routine where the characters are introduced and quite a bit of information about them and their lives filters in. It then moves seamlessly to incorporate their private lives and the issues that cause the dilemmas they are dealing with. Here the reader is swathed in layers of tantalising preparatory information about the three which sets up the entire book.

Luke is an intelligent boy who is trying to find his way in the world, just as the others are. But he feels there is an essential element missing from his relationship with his parents that leaves a space inside him. He admits ‘if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was adopted’. He is kind-hearted and compassionate, with an interest in helping others. He’s searching for a fulfilling role in life.

Bongo is a troubled soul. His stepfather bashes him and his mother is always in rehab but never healed. The social services have removed his little brother Dylan, and placed him in foster care. Bongo turns to drugs temporarily to escape his mother’s futile attempts to repair her life and therefore theirs. She walks out and it’s not until Bongo leaves his abusive home that he is able to make optimistic decisions about his life, all the while considering how to maintain a relationship with Dylan who is later adopted and seems to be slipping further and further from his life.

Casey is controlled by her father. Both she and her mother are overpowered by his domineering nature. Casey has always felt unwanted. She was the reason her parents married. ’I am their mistake’.  Her existence has always been a fierce contention between Casey and her father. She submits to his controlling decisions just to keep the peace. But she has a place in her head that he can’t influence or control. She too, finally finds the courage to leave home.

After Luke’s chapter, there are two other overlapping stages of the story by Bongo and Casey. We see what has become of them over that particular space of time, how they have evolved, matured and changed through their independence, and the results of their decisions.

The impact of how powerful this novel is because of its verse form, becomes clear right from the beginning. Emma Cameron has trimmed all the excesses off in this book and has kept only what is absolutely necessary to showcase the characters, their personalities, actions and lives, producing pages of sharp, precise and flawless prose.

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