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Black Rabbit Summer Hardcover – 7 Feb 2008
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Fantastically vivid .... Brooks' story grips like a vice
-- The Guardian
About the Author
Kevin Brooks was born in Exeter, Devon, and he studied in Birmingham and London. He had a varied working life, with jobs in a crematorium, a zoo, a garage and a post office, before -- happily -- giving it all up to write books. Kevin is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels and now lives in North Yorkshire.
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The plot centres around of group of friends in their mid-teens. As with any decent thriller, there's sex, booze, drugs and missing people. I've often said that moral ambiguity is the key to any good story, and you'll find that in abundance here.
This book might be marketed to teenagers, but the quality of the writing is very high, better than most thrillers I've read that are aimed at adults. It cleverly interweaves a genuinely thrilling mystery with neat social commentary and acutely observed humour centred around the teenager-parent relationship. The plot is of it's time - it's only four years old, and many of the references are already dated - but the themes are timeless: rich versus poor, stereotypes versus reality, childhood versus adulthood.
There's a brilliant thread of hallucinations and psychiatric disturbance that runs through this novel - and there are key plot points to explain it. I mention this only because it demonstrates that this book deals with complex concepts, and uses really quite advanced literary techniques to make its points. It might be for teenagers, but there's no sense here of writing down to them. And it doesn't pull punches.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Black Rabbit Summer is the extraordinary and memorable ending. Of all the novels I've read lately, this has the strongest ending. And, again, it's not an ending you might expect from a book aimed at teens.
I didn't particularly relish reading this, but it completely surpassed my expectations. It is a teen novel, but that just means it's easy to read. It's a narratively tight well-written gripping novel. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Early on in the novel Brooks wonderfully captures the sights and sounds of the funfair which has arrived in the local town during the long hot summer. You can almost taste the candy floss and hear the screams from the Waltzers as main character Pete Boland is invited to the funfair to catch up with some old friends.
The reunion between Pete and his old friends gives us the backdrop to the mystery which unfolds throughout the book. After a night of drugs, alcohol, sexual tension and the reliving of happy memories we discover local 'celebrity' Stella Ross has failed to return home that evening.
From this point in the novel Brooks masterfully weaves a classic whodunit story alongside the trials and tribulations of teenage life. The book is full of twists and turns which ensures we never quite know which direction we are headed in.
Brooks captures the the intensity and raw emotion of teenage relationships brilliantly. No punches are pulled and teenage readers will appreciate the frankness, and at times rawness, with which Brooks brings his characters to life.
As the novel drew to a close I did feel Brooks was struggling to tie up all the many strands which he had weaved throughout the story. However we are left with lots to think about as we finish the last page and maybe that's what Brooks intended all along...
One good feature of the book is that it is narrated by main character Pete Boland: this gives the reader a clear view of his thoughts and feelings. Set in modern-day Britain, this adventure/mystery is gripping, intense, and a good read for people my own age.
Overall, it was a good read, and I will be reading more novels by Kevin Brooks. I would recommend the book, despite the frustrating ending.
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