Tuesday, September 1, 2009

10 Things I Loved about Black Rabbit Summer

I'm going to borrow my friend Colleen Higgs' interesting way of reviewing books where she gives ten things that she enjoyed about the book. I thought it's a slightly more insightful way of talking about a book you've loved. Black Rabbit Summer is marketed as a teenage novel, but I found it fascinating and was intrigued from start to finish.

Ten Things I Loved About
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

1. Kevin Brooks' writing is Kevin Brooks on a page.
I saw Kevin Brooks read and speak at the Cape Town Book Fair this year. He is a middle aged, shy-ish, punk rocker type wired as tight as a spring. His writing is the same and I found that endearing and hopeful.
2. Foreshadowing
I grew up with the Twilight Zone and I am a lover of foreshadowing. I love lines like "I didn't know it then, but as I left Raymond's garden that day and started walking back home, I'd just made the biggest mistake of my life." Lines like that make me quiver with excitement- what next? what next??
3. Pete Boland
Pete Boland is our narrator in Black Rabbit Summer. Straight away I loved him. I loved is aimless laziness and his concern about his laziness. I loved his concern for his mother's feelings. What I loved most was the way he loved Raymond. Raymond is dorky and odd and thinks his rabbit talks to him, but Pete is loving and protective of him. He says, "But I liked the way he looked- his weirdness, his difference, his oddity. I t suited him. It helped to make him what he was." You gotta love a teenager who can say that.
4. The Grimy Streets
The book is set in a city (I think in East Essex) that is obviously in decline. Brooks uses the rubbish, the dirty river, the abandoned factories, the obviously working class neighbourhoods to heighten the fear and danger expertly.
5. First Person Perspective
I'm really beginning to realise the effectiveness of first person. Just before I read this book I read Fuse by S.A. Partridge, another book written for a teen market. Fuse is about school killings and is written in third person, sometimes even omnipresent third person and it kills the book. It is a good book, but it could have been exceptional in first person. In stories with so much emotional investment and tension you must be in some one's head or the tension is dissipated.
6. A Different Fair
Brooks turns those roller coasters and fun games- those screams- into a place full of sinister motives and danger. You'll not look at a fun fair again in the same way I'm afraid.
7. Pacing
The incremental pacing throughout the book taught me how a slow progress forward to an undefined though known danger can draw the reader in like little else can. I'm stealing that for sure.
8. An Interesting Approach to Mystery
This is a mystery above all else, but the approach is innovative. You don't learn what the mystery is until half way through. There are no real dead ends to be travelled down like a traditional detective mystery. It's more like a mist the reader must travel though.
9. Characterization
Brooks is not a fan of long drawn out description and neither am I, but when the book is over you know Pete and Raymond. You understand Nic's motivations. At points I thought I could even smell Pauly. Fantastic characterisation.
10. Raymond
He's such a harmed but gentle character. He hears his rabbit talking, he loves Pete as much as Pete loves him. He's bullied for his difference as all oddities are in this world of conformity. Your heart will ache for him.

I highly recommend this book. 5 very fat stars from me!


daoine said...

Ooh! Sounds excellent. Will have to look out for it.

Interestingly, though, I'm not a fan of foreshadowing. I find it too manipulative. Maybe I should lighten up.

Lauri said...

Daoine- I'm a terribly bossy writer so foreshadowing is one of my tools to take teh reader where I want. I suppose bossy in life - bossy in writing. I am so in love with this book as soon as I get some bucks I'm buying every book he's written.

Helen Ginger said...

What a great review. Point by point, you let us see the book through your eyes. You made me want to read it.

Straight From Hel

Chiamaka said...

Thats another good way to review a book. I love anything written in first person

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I read so many comments by writers, they like to put first person perspective down, they like to say that they hate all those "I's". Well then, what about all those he's and she's? lol. Anyway, good writers know how to utilize first person. Sounds like Black Rabbit Summer is a perfect example. He must be good if you want to run out and buy ALL his books. I will check him out. Thanks.

Lauri said...

He is good Elizabeth but I'm also a author stalker. Once I like an author I want to read everything I can find written by them.