“The Color of Rain” by Cori McCarthy is a YA dystopian novel about prostitutes in space. Set in a distant future, the novel features Rain White, a young woman living the industrial planet of Earth City. Rain’s parents are dead, and her younger brother is Touched, which means that he has a neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s. There is no cure for the Touched on Rain’s planet, but there are rumors that advanced medical technology exists beyond the Void.
When a handsome pilot named Johnny arrives on Earth City, Rain sees a chance to save her brother. She sells herself to Johnny in exchange for passage for her brother’s passage, but after arriving in space, she discovers that Johnny’s up to something much more sinister. Not only is he running a prostitution ring, but he’s also trafficking a hold full of the Touched to be sold as slaves. Rain must use every tool at her disposal to put an end to Johnny’s plans.
Although the novel is being marketed as Young Adult, I think that it’s a prime example of the New Adult genre. It’s written in a similar style as YA novels, but because sexual violence and coercion is a major plot element, it’s more appropriate to older teens or college students.
The relationship between Rain and Johnny can best be described as a battle of wills. Both of them are the type of people, for better or worse, who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The scenes between Johnny and Rain resemble a game of cat-and-mouse, but Rain quickly realizes that she can manipulate Johnny by playing up his view of the ideal woman.
Much like in “The Hunger Games,” Rain finds herself almost entirely on her own aboard Johnny’s ship, because he uses violence and social stratification to keep his prisoners in check. She very quickly learns that any friendships she has will be used against her.
Rain’s one ally is a Mec named Ben, who becomes the book’s primary love interest. The Mecs are cyborgs, enhanced since birth to have increased perception and physical strength. People are suspicious of Mecs because they’re afraid of them and don’t understand their humanity, but Rain is able to look past her initial perceptions and see him for the good person that he truly is. Ben and Rain make a great team and a cute couple, and they bring out the best in each other.
Cori McCarthy brings us an action-packed sci-fi thriller. Recommended for fans of dark-and-edgy dystopian fiction.