“‘You have to come, Rufus. You have to… I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared. I think I - HELP ME!’ And the line went dead.”
Rufus Holt doesn’t really care that it’s the Fourth of July. The only reason he’s not at home trying to get over his ex-boyfriend is that his best friend Lucy dragged him to her party. As it turns out, said ex-boyfriend Sebastian happens to be there and says he wants to talk. Before Bash can get anything out, Rufus gets a call from his step-sister, April, pleading him to come out to her boyfriend’s family's cabin, and to bring help.
Both Rufus and Bash rush to her aid, only to find April crouched over the dead body of her boyfriend, a bloody knife clutched in her hand and illegal white rabbit pills scattered around. Rufus has one night to ignore he and Bash’s tenuous relationship, clear his step-sister’s name, confront the people he hates most, and try not to get himself killed in the progress.
White Rabbit jumps right into the action, explanations and exposition coming much later. This adds a level of double-mystery to the book, as you want to find out who the killer is, but also what’s going on with Rufus’ friends and family.
The story flows extremely well, keeping up suspense while also sliding in some comedy and all around teen drama. My one complaint would be that the multiple pop culture tie-ins seemed forced and out of place. I, too, love Scott Pilgrim, but I didn’t need an entire page of the characters talking about how great it is. Random references are something you see a lot of YA, and if done well, can really add to the story and character depth. Other times they just feel like a lame way of making the book ‘relatable to teens,’ which isn’t even really what I signed up for when reading a murder mystery.
Caleb Roerig’s first novel, Last Seen Leaving, had an enjoyable murder/kidnapping/mystery plot, but the romance seemed awkward and uncomfortable. Roehrig has only grown as an author in White Rabbit, the murderer staying an unpredictable mystery until the last chapter, and the romance developing in a wholesome and realistic way. (Not that I condone hooking up in the back of a car while someone might be trying to kill you.)
This book was like Adam Silvera wrote a season of Riverdale, but with more drug dealers and fewer redheads. Anyone who likes a good teen drama, lots of entertaining and original murder suspects, and getting secondhand anxiety from incredibly stressful situations will be sure to have a terrifyingly good time reading White Rabbit.