Kevin Brooks, 2008. Pete is surprised when Nicole, his old girlfriend and member of his high-school clique, calls him and wants the gang to meet up again at a carnival. Pete hasn’t seen much of the clique for a while, with the exception of Raymond, his neighbor and closest friend. Raymond is…odd; he’s socially awkward and bonds more closely with animals than people, especially his pet rabbit, who he claims can talk to him.
Pete and Raymond reluctantly agree to meet Nicole, Eric, and Pauly at one of their old hangouts, a den in the woods, before the carnival. They drink some rum and tequila and smoke a little pot, and it goes to Pete’s head more than he’d expected; he starts hallucinating and has a hard time standing up straight at the carnival, let alone keeping track of Raymond, whom he’s promised not to abandon. But the lights and noise of the carnival combined with the drugs are confusing enough that Pete does in fact lose Raymond, only to find him consorting with Stella Ross. Stella went to high school with Pete, but since then, she’s made it – she’s famous, sort of just for being famous, like Paris Hilton. She’s beautiful and bitchy and for some reason she’s all wrapped around Raymond. Pete knows she’s just messing with him, and he separates the two, but loses track of Raymond again. Finally giving up, he heads for Nicole’s house and passes out on her porch.
Waking up the next day, everything is different. Raymond is missing, and – more important to everyone except Pete – so is Stella. This is where the intrigue begins, as Pete fights to keep the police looking for Raymond even though their attention is focused on Stella, and on the other hand, to keep them from suspecting Raymond might have kidnapped Stella. Each member of the gang has secrets to hide and lies to tell, and Pete’s father, a police officer, won’t let him leave the house to investigate. In the end, one disappearance is solved, and the other isn’t, which made me curse with frustration as I closed the book.
The suspense is excellent, the characters are realistic, and 488 pages is not too much of Black Rabbit Summer. So what’s the gay part? Clique member Eric is openly gay, and his secret boyfriend is someone you’d never expect. The narrator’s perspective on Eric’s sexuality is utterly neutral, with no judgment, as in a gaytopia novel. Still, I didn’t categorize this book as gaytopic because of Eric’s secret boyfriend…oh, you’ll see.