Rain May's life seems to have fallen apart, as revealed in the opening line of Stranded in Boringsville: "When Dad moved out of our home and into Julia's apartment, Mum changed her name to Maggie, put our house up for sale and had a huge clean-out."
Rain May and her mom leave Melbourne, Australia, and move into her deceased grandmother's old house in a small town. She's a city girl suddenly adrift in the country, but luckily there's a boy next door to keep her company. Daniel is a bit younger, and the unlikely pair forge a friendship. Both are sensitive and isolated (Rain May, by the way, gets her name from a line of poetry by e.e. cummings). Daniel is a brain who is shunned by his peers, but he takes refuge in chess and Star Trek. Rain May tries to figure out how to enjoy new friends at school without being disloyal to Daniel.
Author Catherine Bateson is a poet and children's writer in Australia, where this novel was first published as Rain May and Captain Daniel, capturing a Book of the Year Award from the Children's Book Council of Australia. The plot moves quietly but quickly along, as Rain May goes back and forth between her mother and father and tries to comprehend her father's new life and significant other, Julia.
The Australian setting adds interest and universality to the everyday joys and sorrows. Rain May slowly starts to appreciate her new surroundings, especially when she and Daniel spot a platypus after days of failed watching attempts. Daniel's father, a busy physician, tells them: "You've joined an exclusive club, kids. Not many people these days have seen a platypus in the wild."
Stranded in Boringsville is a lovely account of trying to comprehend the many changes of adolescence. Rain May and Daniel are believable characters who tackle their problems with grace and humor. How lovely, too, to see a book about a deep friendship between a lonely boy and a lonely girl that has no sexual overtones, and is simply a story of giving and caring.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.