Rainbow in the Dark

Clarion. Aug. 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358380375.
Gr 8 Up–Rainbow wakes up in a surreal world, with few memories of her previous life, not even knowing her own name. She soon meets up with other kids who are surviving in this dystopian game-world, always searching for the mythical “home portal” while they lose more and more memories. The plot is interspersed with memories of Rainbow’s life up until this point and pieces of the short story she wrote for English class (which was dark enough to get her sent to the school counselor). This existential story has heavy themes of depression and suicide which are not wholly lifted by the more positive ending. McGinty reflects both the absurdism and horror of living with mental illness. Older teens will better understand the more abstract ideas, but younger ones will still get something from this story. “Spells” in the game that prevent physical contact and censor all swear words keep this story PG-13 when it otherwise could be rated R.
VERDICT Sartre’s No Exit if purgatory were a video game. Hand to teens with depression, who like “Dungeons and Dragons,” or who play indie video games; all three will feel seen.

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