Gordon's story walks the fine line between exploration of topical material and riveting narrative. Tengo, a black child on a South African farm, grows up fairly friendly with Frikkie, the blond Afrikaaner child who will one day inherit the property. The stories of their development are heavily weighted toward Tengo's growing awareness of the rank inequities of the apartheid system; Frikkie's awareness--or lack of it--is described rather than felt. For a time, Waiting for the Rain lapses into social history; the stories of the boys seem lost in the earnest effort to fill in important background. The inevitable conflict between the young men, one armed and one considering what sort of revolutionary action to take, restores tension to the narrative; and readers are ultimately gratified by a difficult and genuinely unpredictable conclusion. One always hopes for a novel in which characters play their lives instead of merely representing points of view. Still, of the novels for children published in the last few years on South Africa's difficult and important social crisis, this seems the best so far.