Kevin Brooks pulled me in "Black Rabbit Summer" with its intense plot and use of repetition. It captured accurately teenage angst and the stupidity people can get up to under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Its creepy plot that slowly, though the course of this book, unravels, never is truly certain; this leads to a whole lot of guesswork... I would have preferred Brooks to at least give the reader a hint.
What annoys me the most is that we never get to find out what happened to Raymond, though that is meant to be what the whole book is about (notice the title "Black Rabbit Summer"- Raymond's black rabbit? And the narrator's relationship with him?) but it is more about Stella, taking drugs and suicide, which is very agitating as I was looking forwards to, whilst reading this book, finding out the truth. But I think Brooks, by doing this, is trying to capture the injustice of modern society.
Altogether a good read- but I can not say a pleasant one. Its intenseness and general horrifying circumstances left me shocked and scared at every shadow lest there should be some decapitated black rabbit or other lurking in the corner... It is one of those books I am glad I have read but certainly never want to read again.
Black Rabbit Summer, by Kevin Brooks
When/why/how I got the book
I always seem to get given lots of books at Christmas, and this year this was one of the best I was given.
I had asked my mum for it, because Kevin Brooks is a fantastic author and this was one of the few books of his I hadn't yet read. I'd read an extract from it at the back of another book, and already wanted to know more about the story.
If youre planning to read this, be warned that this might ruin it for you. I won't tell the endings.
The book starts when Pete, the main character, is upstairs doing nothing, something he is used to doing quite a lot of, looking forward to the summer holidays, and he gets a phone call from an old friend, Nicole. This is unexpected, he hasn't properly spoken to her for years and he wonders what she wants. What she wants is for him, her and their old gang of friends to meet up, for a reunion. She wants them to all meet up at the funfair that night. Pete decides he will go, but already the reader can tell there is going to be trouble - and there is.
He asks Nicole if Raymond, his best friend, who used to tag along after the gang, is invited. Nicole isn't enthusiastic about him going but she agrees.
When we first meet Raymond we can tell he is really strange. He has a rabbit who he claims talks to him about things, and he seems obsessed about black rabbits. Raymond isn't sure about going to the funfair but in the end he decides to go along. Though later Pete deeply regrets ever asking him to come along.
Pete's old friend Pauly is also quite a disturbed character. He is into drugs nowadays and is in with the wrong crowd. He is being used by a dangerous gang leader, Wes Campbell, and Nicole's twin brother, Eric, who are manipulating him and getting him involved in dark things he'd rather not be involved with.
The main storyline is that there is a girl in the story, her name is Stella, and she went to school with Pete and the old gang, they were never that close friends but they all knew each other. She is a model, and she goes missing on the night of the funfair, along with one of the other characters (you'll have to read the book to find out who) and there is a big mystery about what has happened to her and who is to blame.
This book isn't really suitable for children, it is more for teenagers, as there is swearing and death in it.
What other people think about Black Rabbit Summer
I have typed what it says that critics have said about the book on the back cover, and what some of my friends and family who have also read the book have said, to help you with your buying decision.
'A masterly writer, and this book would put many authors of 'grown up' detective fiction to shame' - Mail on Sunday
'Great story, I couldn't put it down and finished it within a week!' - My sister, 13
'A compulsive, atmospheric mystery' - Sunday Times
'Interesting characters, and gripping story' - female friend, 15
'Gripping, disturbing... Brilliant' - Sunday Express
'A cracking story... grips like a vice' - Guardian
The price on the back of my copy of Black Rabbit Summer is £6.99 for the Uk and $12.00 for Canada.
Other books by Kevin Brooks and how this one compares to them
I have read most of Kevin Brook's novels such as Lucas, Candy, Being, Martyn Pigg, and Kissing the Rain, and I would say Black Rabbit Summer is one of the best, and probably my favourite.
Would I recommend reading Black Rabbit Summer
Yes! I would definitely recommed reading it as its a fantastic novel and once you start reading it you can't put it down. I've read it about three times already since Christmas.
If you aren't sure about buying it, you could always borrow it from a local library.
Although this is billed as a story about one mysterious night in a long, hot summer, Brooks' novel is much more than a "who-dunnit" or even a "why-dunnit". From the opening pages he captures the world of teenagers everywhere, with their complex web of shifting relationships, vulnerability to each other and complete refusal to share their world in full with any adults.
== Plot ==
After a slow start which follows the main character through the lead up to the big night, there is the hazily captured main event: the funfair. The chaotic atmosphere is captured perfectly as the teenagers stumble through the night, high on a heady mixture of drugs, booze and the teenager's sense of sheer invulnerability. Like a kaleidoscope revolving, old friends meet and spin apart, some heading to destruction. The morning after is when the thriller aspect of the story begins and the novel really picks up pace: two teenagers are missing and the police appear to have decided on a disagreeable interpretation of events. Desperate to discover the truth and find his friend, the main character repeatedly (but believably) escapes the police and his parents to do his own sleuthing. Along the way he learns new information about old friends and encounters growing violence and danger. As the novel draws to a close, twists and turns abound but the whole truth appears to be out of reach.
From this summary, two important points should be clear. Firstly, this is not a suitable novel for very young teens, who may find the sexual content and repeated references to drug abuse disturbing. (This is not as patronising as it may sound: I discussed this book with the Berkshire Book Award shadowing group at my school, and many of them had found the bad language and other explicit content prevented them from enjoying the novel. One girl had refused to read any further than the opening chapters. Interestingly, many of them did still think it was a good book, although it made them so uncomfortable.)
Secondly, this is not a book for those who like to have everything neatly resolved. Brooks has said in interviews that he prefers to keep his books open-ended as it encourages people to keep thinking about the book; once the story is tied up, he thinks, you put the book out of your mind quickly and move on. Although I prefer closed endings myself, I think he is correct as I kept looking back at the earlier chapters for clues when I had finished! Overall, enough is resolved to allow you to feel that the story can close, but enough is left unanswered to make you keep wondering.
The pace is good and will keep you turning pages long after you should have turned out the lights! The sense of progress never lets up, even as Pete becomes increasingly exhausted by the after effects of that night...
First person narrator Pete Boland is drifting through an uneventful summer when he receives a phone call from Nicole, a girl who was clearly more than a friend once. In typical Brooks' style, the reader never really uncovers the history of their previous relationship, or what they really felt for each other. In some ways, this is refreshing: who, when faced with a call from an old friend, really thinks through the whole history of their relationship? Or talks it all through with another friend? 'Oh, you remember I told you about the time that we...' Instead, we learn about Pete and Nic's past and present relationship through their very believable dialogue and some sketchy, hastily pushed aside memories of Pete's. Of course, for those readers who like to know everything to help them establish a feel for characters, this may be frustrating, but the first person narrative and Pete's initially calm (almost depressed) approach to life allow you to live the story alongside him. The story remains firmly in Pete's hands: other characters are seen through his eyes, to good effect. This is perhaps especially true of Raymond.
Raymond Daggett is introduced as the only friend Pete appears to be close to and, although he is never labelled with any disorder, it is clear that he is a very strange young man. He spends nights outside with his rabbit - Black Rabbit - talking to him. Perhaps more importantly, Black Rabbit talked back. His parents appear largely heartless and there are suggestions that they are abusive, or at least extremely neglectful of him. However, painted by Pete's vision of him, Raymond appears childish and in need of protection. This is important when he comes under suspicion later in the novel as the reader is forced to try to evaluate the true nature of a character that they have only really seen from one perspective.
The other teens all pay crucial roles, but are less important to Pete, at least initially. Nicole and her twin brother Eric were once good friends of Pete's, though he struggles now to remember why, and doesn't seem to like Eric at all. This is also true of Pauly Gilpin, who comes across as potentially one of the saddest characters in the story. Brooks convincingly shows how friends who have drifted apart might struggle to reconnect. Pauly appears to be friends with Wes Campbell, the local bully who controls the Greenwell estate kids. Each character is convincingly drawn and their interactions gradually reveal the mystery of That Night.
Other characters are also important to the story, such as the fortune teller who insists that Raymond should go home, adding a slightly mystical feel to the novel. Again, additional characters are well realised and (apart from the 'man with a moustache - who may be simply a hallucination - ) are vital to the plot.
== Atmosphere and setting ==
Where Brooks excels is in creating a humid, fearful, tense atmosphere. His vivid descriptions create the summer of the story as a vivid backdrop, and when the Greenwell kids approach Pete they are described in a manner that makes them appear to be deadly threatening foes.
The geography of the estate is important to the novel, but it is revealing that there is no map included in the book. Unlike so many authors, Brooks feels no need of this tool; his setting is clearly mapped out by Pete's descriptions as he sets up the story and, later, as he moves between each area.
The descriptions of the fairground and events afterwards often take on a surreal, hallucination-type quality as the characters were drunk, stoned and drugged. However, this quality in the novel is never clearly reduced to the effect of narcotics and the fortune teller's apparent premonition adds to a slightly magical atmosphere which I think is enhanced by certain unresolved features at the close of the novel. This helps to make the novel compelling: will it transpire that mystical forces were at work?
== Conclusions ==
Personally, I did not actually enjoy reading most of this book. I felt it reminded me of 'Skins', a TV drama that I choose not to watch. The characters seem stereotypically teenage: involved in drugs, drink and dope while indulging in casual sex.
However, I do think that it is likely to be a compelling read for most, provided they are aware of the content and do not demand a neatly resolved ending.