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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In a beautifully written but hard-hitting tale about the harsh realities of life, African-American author Rita Williams-Garcia offers the elegantly poignant young adult novel Every Time a Rainbow Dies. Sixteen-year-old Thulani has been adrift in his life ever since the death of his mother. But the healing power of love, along with a tragic event and the vagaries of fate, eventually give Thulani's life new meaning and direction.
Living in the Brooklyn brownstone he and his older brother inherited upon their mother's death, Thulani's only interest in life is the pigeons he keeps in a dovecote up on the roof. As much as possible, he ignores his brother's attempts to "man him up" and his pregnant sister-in-law's incessant nagging. He has no direction, no goals, no purpose. But that all changes when he witnesses a vicious rape in the alley below his rooftop. By the time Thulani reaches the girl, her attackers have fled. But instead of the gratitude and relief he expects from her, Thulani is cursed, shunned, and even slapped by the battered girl.
In the weeks that follow, Thulani finds himself obsessing over the girl, whose name, he learns, is Ysa. He follows her during the day to see where she goes and dreams about her at night. It takes weeks before he has the courage to approach her, and his reception is not a warm one. But Thulani is determined and persistent, a trait that eventually wears down Ysa's defenses. Now for the first time since his mother's death, Thulani has something other than his birds that he cares about, but each time happiness seems within his grasp, something happens to take it away from him. Then Thulani's brother makes some decisions that will force Thulani to redirect his entire life. This crisis, combined with his brother's well-meaning but heartbreaking betrayals and the tenuous nature of his relationship with Ysa, teach Thulani how to love, forgive, and stand up for what he believes in.
Every Time a Rainbow Dies isn't always an easy read. A violent rape scene, which is depicted in vivid detail, and some sexual imagery that can, at times, be a bit coarse, dictate caution when considering the book's appropriateness for some YA readers. But although Williams-Garcia offers no illusions about the harsh realities of life, she also does an amazing job of proffering hope where there seemingly is none. For those who don't need their tales sugarcoated, this is a painful but rewarding read.