Rainbirds by Clarissa Geonawan / ★★ 1/2
Summary: Ren Ishida’s sister is murdered one rainy night in small town in Japan, and there are no leads. When Ren goes to conclude his sister’s affairs, he is offered her teaching job, meets those who knew her, and begins to unravel the secrets of her life.
“Remember this, Ren. Sadness alone can’t harm anyone. It’s what you do when you’re sad that can hurt you and those around you.”
This book was…interesting. Not what I expected. What I expected was something a bit more mysterious and thrilling, but what I got was more of a story of one man’s many exploits with women who don’t seem to extensively interest him, whilst wondering at the death of his sister and uncovering several secrets he seems to stumble upon a bit too easily.
BUT before I go too hard on this book, and even though I rated it two and a half stars, I was actually quite far into this book before I realized how much I disliked it. And I will say that the best thing about Rainbirds was its atmosphere, and that’s where the half star in my rating comes from. The writing and the settings were simple and unadorned, quiet and warm and colorful, and it gave me a very “slice of life” feeling. The atmosphere and the colors were lovely.
I stopped liking this book the moment I realized that I really didn’t like the main character, who…women seem drawn to for reasons beyond me, as he’s a bit dull and flat, even if well-meaning most of the time. This book was full of his various excursions with women, whether it’s a night in a hotel room with a model in Tokyo or going out for lunch with the seventeen year old girl he teaches (which, yeah, while this book doesn’t necessarily condone student/teacher relationships, it really comes close to giving us one, which made me….very uncomfortable). I was just….entirely put off by Ren’s romantic interludes, and the way it related to his relationship with his dead sister. Not to put a creator in a box, but if I hadn’t known better, I wouldn’t have guessed this book was written by a woman.
The plot felt drawn-out and sprawling. Most of the time I wasn’t sure where it was even going, except not in a “I’m intrigued” sort of way, but more of a “what is happening” sort of way. The plot lines that came together were strangely related (and unrelated), and a lot of it hinged on small details that Ren was able to deduce major plot points from, as well as his ability to get the entire life stories from people he speaks to very seldomly throughout the entire novel. It’s a strange, vague puzzle that he constructs, and I didn’t find it a very riveting one, especially when some of the mystery solving was done so easily and conveniently.
Also- if you dislike dream sequences and plot derived from what a character sees in their dreams, this is probably not the book for you.
All in all, I didn’t hate this book- the atmosphere was pleasant, and it posed an interesting mystery. But the plot never really came together for me, it never really shocked me or hooked me, and there were just too many girls interested in this one guy (who…has a girlfriend back home the entire time??).
Rainbirds does get points for having an extremely pretty cover, though.