July 19, 2021

Sean McGinty: "Rainbow in the Dark" (ARC Review)

Title: Rainbow in the Dark [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Sean McGinty [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Dark Comedy
Year: 2021
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique story that balances dark humour and teen angst and delivers a powerful message.
Cons: The surrealistic style might not work for everyone.
WARNING! Themes of depression and suicide (the latter more on the page, though filtered through an absurdist lens). Some gore. A pet's death.
Will appeal to: Those who like a book that colours outside the lines.

Blurb: High school senior Rainbow is trapped with three other teens in a game-like world that may or may not be real. Together, they must complete quests and gain experience in order to access their own forgotten memories, decode what has happened to them, and find a portal home. As Rainbow’s memories slowly return, the story of a lonely teen facing senior year as the new kid in a small town emerges. Surreal, absurdist humor balances sensitively handled themes of suicide, depression, and the search for identity. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


Rainbow in the Dark is the epitome of a double-souled book: (mostly) set in a game-like world but contemporary in nature, alternating 1st person to 2nd person narrative (not to mention, there are a few chapters in 3rd person, whose protagonist is a character Rainbow dreamed up and wrote stories about), humorous and absurdist but tackling serious themes as depression and suicide. In short: dark comedy meets teen angst. However, you needn't be afraid to pick this book up, because the opposites converge quite successfully, and give birth to one of the most unique stories you'll ever read. Their connection is made even stronger by the fact that lots of details or incidents in the game-like world, no matter how preposterous, mirror/are connected to other details or incidents from Rainbow's real life, and the protagonist's fantastic journey is, for all purposes, a quest that will (maybe) result in her putting her life back together. [...]


Mind you, the blurb is misleading, because RITD isn't about "a lonely teen facing senior year as the new kid in a small town". We don't know what Rainbow's problems are, and if anything, they mostly seem to be rooted in her home life - especially in her growing apart from her brother. But here's the fact: it isn't by any means crucial to know why Rainbow is depressed and flirts with the idea of suicide. Depression doesn't necessarily have a real reason or a trigger. Lots of successful, apparently fulfilled people (even famous ones) have admitted being depressed through the years. I'm sure that the author here avoids pointing his finger toward a specific occurrence or situation for a reason; if anything, the most disturbing incident in the whole story (a pet's unnatural death) is able to shock Rainbow out of her torpor and make her realise she has a hand in steering destiny this or that way - and not only her own. I'll admit not particularly liking that a pet had to die to set the story in motion, but at least there was an impossible, adorable ball of fluff in the game-like world to make up for that. Not to mention, a strong supporting cast/found family, my only qualm about which would be that - though rooted in real life - they all but disappear in the end, with no resolution/mention in sight. 


As crazy and out-there this story is - and let's admit it, that's probably its biggest charm - and if you can stomach the death of a pet, Rainbow in the Dark has many things going for it. Imaginative setting, with clever references to the lead's everyday reality, and equally inventive (though sometimes videogame-inspired) twists and turns; unusual (if sometimes crude) humour not relying on the average puns or jokes that don't always hit the mark; a sympathetic (and not patronising) eye toward teen plights, all the while delivering a powerful message of hope. And yay! no mandatory romance in sight! Rainbow in the Dark was a success with me, and I plan on buying a physical copy for my collection.

For more Contemporary/Contemporary with a Twist books click here.


  1. Hmm. I like the sound of the absurdist humor! Pet death notwithstanding, this sounds decent. And no mandatory romance! :)

  2. It does sound good but a death of a pet is hard to read about. Thanks for the great review.

    1. At least we didn't known the pet in question - we just get told how he died.

  3. Pet deaths are the worst, though, I am more forgiving of them if they serve a purpose. It sounds like the death was at least meaningful in this story.

  4. Not for me, I don't think, but it sounds fun and wild overall.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. I think the pet's death would be too hard for you to bear.


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