Review Blog

Oct 27 2008

Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

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Penguin Books 2008.
(Age 15+) As a huge fan of Kevin Brooks I fell on this book - two of his previous novels Candy and Kissing the Rain are in my opinion near perfect. Black Rabbit Summer tells the story of Pete - sixteen, lonely and a little depressed and the events that catapult him and his friends into disaster. This is a summer of change. Everyone has left school, friendships have drifted and Pete is losing touch with the people he grew up with. A call from his former girlfriend results in a trip to the fair with his old friends. Undercurrents bubble away, fuelled partly by the drugs and alcohol that are now on the scene. The night ends in tragedy when two of the group go missing - streetwise Stella and damaged Raymond. Are their disappearances connected? Is someone with a troubled mind capable of murder?

Stella's body is discovered and Raymond, still missing, becomes the prime suspect. But Pete is convinced of his innocence and sets out to prove it, exposing the real perpetrators in the process and putting his own life on the line.

The plot is gritty and realistic but for me Brooks' story never really takes off. At over four hundred pages this is a weighty tome that in my opinion could have been pruned by at least a quarter. Brooks' fondness for stream of consciousness results in lengthy forays into minute detail which become irritating after a while and I was exasperated at how slowly the story developed.

This book is relentlessly grim. The characters are flawed and dark and I found it hard to empathise with any of them apart from Raymond, and he disappears early on. There is plenty of shock value which may impress young readers, but I found the whole story strangely flat. Brooks packs a lot into this novel: homosexuality, abuse, drugs, murder, knife crime, blackmail - but for me the tide of 'issues' was just too overwhelming. In comparison it made me recall one of the seminal teenage novels: Junk by Melvin Burgess, scenes from which remain with me to this day. Black Rabbit Summer had much less of an impact and I finished this book with a sense of relief.
Claire Larson

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