Red Rain by R.L. Stine

(No Series)

Before there was J. K. Rowling, before there was Stephenie Meyer or Suzanne Collins, there was R.L. Stine. Witty, creepy, and compulsively readable, his books defined horror for a generation of young readers – readers who have now come of age.

In Red Rain, Stine uses his unerring knack for creating terror to tap into some very grownup fears. Travel writer Lea Sutter finds herself on a small island off the coast of South Carolina, the wrong place at the wrong time. A merciless, unanticipated hurricane cuts a path of destruction through the island and Lea barely escapes with her life.

In the storm’s aftermath, she discovers two orphaned boys – twins. Filled with a desire to do something to help, to make something good of all she witnessed, Lea impulsively decides to adopt them. The boys, Samuel and Daniel, seem amiable and immensely grateful; Lea’s family back on Long Island – husband Mark, a child psychologist, and their two children, Ira and Elena – aren’t quite so pleased. But even they can’t anticipate the twins’ true nature – or predict that, within a few weeks’ time, Mark will wind up implicated in two brutal murders, with the police narrowing in.

For the millions of readers who grew up on Goosebumps, and for every fan of deviously inventive horror, this is a must-read from a beloved master of the genre.

The story works okay, but the book fails on other levels - if Goosebumps/Fear street had a love child with an adult John Saul novel, this would be the offspring.

The author, who is talented when it comes to writing a ridiculous amount for children, stumbled when he brought most of the same writing techniques into an adult novel. The story wasn't too bad, especially for a horror novel that's aiming to pay homage to flicks the author grew up on, but the overuse of ellipses, the repetitive phrases, and the chapter cliffhangers don't translate well.

Kids have short attentions, they need the in-your-face, non-subtle chapter cliffhangers, they need the obvious spelled out for them in black and white. Adults don't, and it comes across cheesy when tried.

The characters aren't too bad, even if they don't stand out much more than paper-people used in the Goosebumps and Fear Street books. I could guess where some of it was going, although that didn't bother me. There was a twist or two I hadn't guessed, but it didn't win me over. The base storyline was okay - two oddball powered kids, a freaky storm the lead travel writer knew nothing about (how could she not know a giant killer hurricane was coming until getting to the island??), a nifty island idea that spawns dead people....but it got convoluted and wasted when the kids come back to raise chaos by wanting to do cheesy antics like mind control groups of children.

Sometimes the author seemed to relapse and forget himself, slipping into pure kid writing mode for some of the scenes. Other times he seemed to remember and climb out. There's some profanity which obviously didn't exist in younger works, a randomly tossed in sex scene I still can't figure out, but nothing troubling or over-indulged.

It's not a horrible book once you can sink into it. It takes a while to sink in and forgive some annoyances, however, and you may not have the patience to test the waters that long.

On the plus side, I had a dream come true when I got to meet R.L. Stine in person at a convention when I got this book autographed, as well as hear him speak in a writer's conference about his life's work.

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