Spoilers below for the books Black Rabbit Summer and The Bunker Diary
BLACK RABBIT SUMMER
THE BUNKER DIARY
Do you like feeling unfulfilled? Do you like interpreting that feeling as some sort of achievement? Then Kevin Brooks is for you! No resolutions, no explanations, just shit happening with no reason!
Some people say “it’s realistic”, which I would agree with except that a person trapping 6 unrelated people in a bunker and lets them starve to death doesn’t sound like a very realistic scenario to begin with. The Bunker Diary is a controversial book because some critics and parents (and presumably kids) think it’s too hardcore, that children’s literature shouldn’t feature gore, torture, starvation, whatever. Well, that really isn’t the problem with the book. If you have a reason for it, do it. Cut characters open and let them bleed to death, bury them alive, kill them in any POSTAL2 way you desire. But you need to have a reason for doing so. The Bunker Diary offers no reason. It prods at the mystery and then says “nevermind”. The lesson I learnt from this book is that when people don’t have food and water, they die. Which is a valuable albeit unnecessary lesson.
I’m not even going to put Black Rabbit Summer in the murder mystery genre, because I respect murder mystery authors and the structure and rules of mystery. Granted, if you don’t read this book as a murder mystery, it offers various interesting things. The voice is unique, surreal and engaging, the tension well-maintained. However, once you start participating in solving the mystery, you’ll probably just end up being angry because even the author doesn’t solve the mystery. It’s not open-ended. It’s just not ended. Again, it frames itself as a mystery with two parallel and seemingly connected cases. One is the disappearance of Raymond, the other is the murder of Stella. The main character only solves the second case because he’s anxious to find his best friend. Well, the main mystery is never resolved. He doesn’t know where Raymond is, why his rabbit got its head chopped off, what Raymond’s connection with the secondary mystery is.
These books are definitely thought provoking. I really enjoyed both of them until the end, which unfortunately made the rest of the books disappointing as the endings invalidate most things that were set up. Still, in terms of YA these are at least interesting and not just another copy cat of those angsty, anti-establishment, “strong”-female-protagonist books with poor world-building.