Aaron lives with his mum and older brother in a small town on the edge of a rainforest in tropical Far North Queensland. He’s sick of being the little brother, left out of all the interesting stuff the older kids get up to.
So when he meets Damon, he’s keen to impress him. It’s all going well, until Damon suggests they break into the church. Aaron is nervous and uncomfortable with the idea. But he can’t back out now—he’s only just beginning to be accepted.
When the theft is reported in the local newspaper and the police knock on the door, Aaron finds himself hiding the truth in a tangle of lies. And before long his deep sense of guilt and fear of being found out overwhelm him.
And then, when he discovers that the mudcod in the old bath in the backyard—the fish he’d caught in the river in the rainforest—are the rainfish of local legend, he becomes convinced that he is responsible for the terrible rainstorms and floods that devastate the town.
Debut author Andrew Paterson was brought up, and currently lives and works, in Far North Queensland, where Rainfish is set. Rainfish is also the winner of the 2020 Text Prize.
Rainfish is one of the most impactful middle-grade novels I’ve read. It authentically demonstrates the realities of conformity and trying to fit in as you’re discovering who you are. The story may be set in the offline era of the 80s, but Rainfish’s poignant messages prove to be timeless, one which today’s readers are sure to relate to at every turn of the page—I know I did.
Paterson’s portrayal of family dynamics took me through a wave of emotions and feelings. As a middle child, I could empathise with both Aaron and Connor in a range of ways, and as an adult I could even relate to their mother. This is one of those novels you can revisit at different stages of your life and take in something new each time.
Rainfish is a delightful middle-grade novel exploring childhood innocence, and a warm and humorous portrayal of a young boy trying to undo an impulsive mistake. I was drawn to the way Paterson portrays the complex in a beautifully simplistic way, making it impactful yet digestible for readers aged 10+. I couldn’t recommend it more.