White Rabbit

It's been "only one week" since Rufus Holt finally "stopped entertaining pointless fantasies that, one day," ex-boyfriend Sebastian would take him back, and here Sebastian is at Rufus's bff's Fourth of July party. The appearance of his ex is not the worst thing that will happen to Rufus tonight. Rufus receives a phone call from his half-sister, April, begging for his help: she woke up covered in blood with a knife in her hand, next to the dead body of her boyfriend. April claims she's innocent but bribes Rufus to help her find the killer. With Sebastian in tow, Rufus lurches through a long night of lies, violence and threats, desperately hoping he'll be unscathed come morning.

Caleb Roehrig's (Last Seen Leaving) sophomore novel is a compelling and cinematic whodunit elevated by romance and melodramatic family dynamics. Using flashbacks, Roehrig reveals the complexities of Rufus's relationships with his father, half siblings and closeted ex-boyfriend, and his struggle with being an openly gay kid in a narrow-minded school. These isolated moments in time help ground this grisly, serpentine murder mystery and remind readers that these characters are everyday teenagers with everyday problems.

Most effective is how Roehrig uses weather to build tension. From the very beginning, the "thick and sticky heat" lingers in the "heavy, still air," mimicking the solemnity of the situation that lies ahead. Then, as the events unspool, "a mist [rises] up from the lake," turning into a fog that "seems to constrict, drawing in closer." White Rabbit is a riveting, atmospheric read, thick with anticipation, that holds readers in its grip to the final shocking reveal. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

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