Black Rabbit Summer

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Black Rabbit Summer Book Poster Image
British murder mystery is full of adult content.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Pete lies to the police and his parents (but he mostly has a positive relationship with them otherwise). Raymond is bullied and teased. Raymond believes his rabbit speaks to him. Pete's father, a police officer, tells him what is going on with the investigation even though it's described as "totally inappropriate." Pete sneaks into his friends' house and steals one of their cell phones. A celebrity tries to fake her kidnapping so she can make her parents pay a ransom. Two homosexual teens want to hide their relationship.


Raymond's rabbit is decapitated and its head impaled on a rusty nail on a gate. A group of teens steal and smash Pete's bike, then chase him. An older boy threatens him by squeezing his neck until he almost passes out, and by holding a box cutter against his face and telling him "I'll cut your f--king tongue out." He hits Pete twice in the face and pushes his head into the dirt. The same boy cuts his boyfriend's leg with the knife during an argument. Police find bloodied clothes, a burned-out car, and later a girl's naked dead body in the river. A drugged-out teen attacks a girl and ends up killing her. He later hangs himself, the result of which is graphically described.


A girl takes off her clothes and straddles a boy's lap, but he realizes she is drunk. She gets upset when he tells her he doesn't think they should have sex; she says he's "making her feel like a whore." Two teen boys have sex in a storage room; a girl takes a picture and blackmails them. A girl sleeps with a carnival worker she just met. A boy tacks up naked pictures from the Internet of a celebrity all over his bedroom wall.


Lots of British curse words: "f--k," "f--ker," "piss off," "twat," "wanker," "s--t," "arse," "hell," "bastard," "Christ," "t-ts," "bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Pete steals a bottle of wine from his dad to bring to a "den party" in a makeshift shack; other 18-year-old teens also bring hard alcohol, pot, and vodka spiked with "juice" (a synthetic hallucinogen called TCI). The group also partied with "stolen cigarettes and bottles of booze" when they were younger (13-14), "getting drunk, getting sick, getting overexcited. . ." Pete insists he has no control over drinking. Nicole gets so drunk she can't remember if she slept with two guys the previous night. A carnival worker is rumored to drug girls and have sex with them. Pauly offers "Vodka Kick" and "blow."

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]."

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byjosthechanterpanther June 14, 2017


its just ok but hard to read
Teen, 16 years old Written byAllspark June 3, 2011

Good if language doesn't bother you.

All the comments below this are ridiculous. Cursing does not make people want to read more; good writing does. Curse words don't brighten a sentence; fresh... Continue reading

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?

Book details

  • Author: Kevin Brooks
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Chicken House
  • Publication date: July 1, 2008
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14
  • Number of pages: 488
  • Last updated: July 13, 2017

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