Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
|Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: A dark, tense, threatening crime novel that taps into the teenage psyche and skillfully combines adolescent sensibilities with a mystery plot. It's sympathetic, distressing and absolutely riveting. Wonderful stuff.
|Date: February 2008
|Publisher: Puffin Books
|External links: Author's website
Pete Boland is sixteen. He's in the middle of a post-GCSE lethargy, lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, mostly, while the summer's heat shimmers outside. He can't be bothered with anything much, and his mother is beginning to worry. And then Nicole rings up to arrange a reunion of old friends in the den on waste ground they made and played in many summers before. Pete, Nic, Eric, Pauly and Raymond were inseparable then, but they've gone their separate ways now. They have different friends, interests, lives. His interest piqued, Pete insists on Raymond's inclusion, although Nic seems less keen. Raymond is slightly weird; a loner with time only for Black Rabbit, his beloved pet.
But, sent awry by drink and drugs, the reunion soon goes sour. Old rivalries resurface. New threats present themselves. That night another old schoolfriend, Stella, goes missing and so does Raymond. The police see Raymond as a likely culprit, not a victim, and the rest of the gang don't seem to disagree. Angry and frightened, Pete determines to get to the bottom of what really happened on that awful night.
Kevin Brooks brings the crime genre to teenagers with his usual panache in this tense and sinister novel. Everything about it is oppressive, from the opening sticky summer heat, through the intense undertones of the den party and its aftermath at the funfair, to the subsequent police investigation. Pete can feel the walls closing in on him, but he doesn't understand any of the hows and the whys. He's constantly trying to fight his way out of his claustrophobic and frightening situation, but at some instinctive level, he understands that he can't do that unless he can uncover the truth for himself.
This is probably true, but, like most adolescents, Pete is also very self-centred. He makes many mistakes over the course of the book, and most of them stem from a steadfast refusal to be absolutely honest with others. He tries to stand up for Raymond, but he can't quite always manage it. He knows he is able to trust his parents, but he won't put always put his trust in them. He cooperates with the police, but not quite fully. Ultimately, these mistakes do lead him to the truth, but they also put him in terrible danger.
Through it all, Pete's involved in an agonising dialogue with himself, thinking, analysing, over-analysing, worrying. And here is Brooks' particular skill. He taps into the adolescent psyche with all its neuroses, insecurities and intense emotions. Pete is an utterly believable character; flawed but deeply sympathetic and with a huge amount of promise. The tensions between the main actors is palpable and on an emotional landscape immediately recognisable to all adolescents. Love, lust, anomie, celebrity, deprivation, drugs, violence - everything is covered with an authorial tone that recognises everything but leaves all judgement to the reader. I love the way this man writes.
My thanks to the good people at Puffin for sending the book.
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