Caleb Roehrig, the author of the 2016 hit, Last Seen Leaving, has returned with his second novel. White Rabbit is a compelling YA murder mystery and was released on April 24th by Feiwel & Friends a division of Macmillan. 16-year-old Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. First, his ex-boyfriend Sebastian, his first love and his first heartbreak, returns unexpectedly saying they need to “talk.” Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, Rufus receives a call from his half-sister April begging for help.
Forced to partner up with Sebastian, Rufus finds April unconscious, soaked in blood, and still clutching a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney. April swears she didn’t hurt Fox but her memory is hazy, possibly due to the mound of drugs Rufus and Sebastian found in the cabin. Rufus knows her too well to believe he is getting the whole truth, but she has something he needs. Rufus has one night to clear her and claim his prize with no one he can trust but the boy he wants to hate but can’t stop loving. By dawn, the true killer will be behind bars or Rufus will have died trying.
It was great to get a novel from the point of view of a young gay character who has so many real-world experiences. Rufus gets bullied, he has close friends, he has crushed on straight, bi and gay people all in the pursuit of what works best for him and what makes him happy. It is hard to say which journey of his I prefer more, his quest for love or his hunt for justice. OK, it is the hunt for justice, that is more my style, but Caleb did a great job intertwining the two elements. The only thing better than the mystery is Caleb’s use of metaphors, he is indeed great at painting an image or describing ideas in his own way such as “the three of us were as tense and silent as a German horror film.”
I think my biggest complaint is that with Caleb’s large cast of characters they tend to suffer from being too similar. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of which person said what because they don’t have a distinctive voice. It’s great to have a character or two love a comic book, but to have four or five of them being able to quote it endlessly is a bit too much. Rufus’ world is populated with many wealthy, self-important jerks that I struggle to keep straight a few days after finishing, but Rufus and Sebastian are well-rounded and memorable.
In addition, Caleb or an editor was a bit too in love with the thesaurus because some of the word choices were odd. None of the words were misused or couldn’t be understood in context, but there were some very nontraditional choices. Overall, White Rabbit is an excellent choice for young mystery fans with plenty of twists and turns, and I think teenagers will gravitate to Rufus and his romantic plight.