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Black Rabbit Summer
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book involves a murder of a teen by a teen, suicide, hallucinogenic drug use, and drunken teen sex. After all that, other iffy behavior seems rather tame: teens lie to their parents and police, smoke cigarettes and pot, and drink hard alcohol recreationally. Another disturbing element is the main character's apathy toward his own life and others'. When Pete learns his friend killed a girl, he notes, "I just didn't care. I know that probably sounds pretty callous, but the simple truth is -- I didn't like [her]."
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What's the story?
Pete, Nicole, Eric, Pauly, and Raymond used to hang out together as kids. Now that they've graduated from high school and are headed separate ways, Nicole proposes a final party, followed by a night at the fair. Pete tries to watch out for his best friend, Raymond, who everyone else calls "Mental Ray" because Raymond believes his rabbit speaks to him. Somehow, Pete loses track of Raymond, who never turns up after the fair. Neither does a homegrown celebrity, Stella Ross. Now Raymond and all the gang are suspects in what turns out to be a murder case. A local hood, Wes, threatens Pete when he tries to do his own investigation. Pete knows he's getting closer to the truth -- if he doesn't get killed first.
Is it any good?
It's hard for readers to invest in this murder mystery since Pete, the depressed first-person narrator, doesn't. Pete is "happy enough doing nothing" and plans to study law in college because he can't think of other options. Even after his friends kill a girl and beat him up, he's pretty blasé about it.
Brooks' prose is surprisingly trite and badly in need of editing. Many passages in this nearly 500-page book are annoyingly repetitive -- to say nothing of the excessive use of one-sentence paragraphs (It was hot. [Break] I was sweating. [Break] My throat hurt.) Character motivation is vague at best. The whole talking rabbit thing seems tossed in for a little atmosphere. The plot hinges on a fake kidnapping attempt, but the only explanations as to why the celebrity bothers with all this trouble are also pretty vague. Raymond's situation is unresolved at the ending, which suggests either a sequel or laziness. "He's just gone." But nobody really cares.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the dangers of psychedelic drugs and how they can make people paranoid and violent. At one point, Pete turns down sex with a girl because she is too drunk. Pete later wonders if he's "an idiot" -- what do teens think? Does this book feel edgy and interesting with all the sex and drug content, or does it take away from the mystery? What mysteries have you read that give you the chills without laying on the adult content?