Peter Blankman is scared of everything. Suffering from severe panic attacks, he uses maths to help calm his mind. His mother and sister are his support network, understanding his needs and being there for him. Then the unthinkable happens, his mother is stabbed and his sister goes missing. Peter is sucked into an undercover world of spies, never sure who he can trust.
All translation is encryption, after all. There’s no such thing as plain text; there are only codes you understand and codes you don’t.
White Rabbit, Red Wolf is a twisty turny young adult thriller which challenges the stereotype of the spy book hero. It is so twisty it’s a bit hard to review much about the plot without giving things away. I read most of it in one day, which is a big endorsement from me these days.
The story opens on a panic attack, showing how bad things are for Peter, where he compulsively eats when his maths fails him. It also shows the supportive nature of his mother, who doesn’t question him, just tends to his injuries. I loved that he had understanding people in his life, which makes what unfolds even more shocking.
His mental health makes it hard for him to make friends and he is an easy victim of the school bullies. His twin sister Bel looks out for him but things do start to look up when he befriends Ingrid, a girl with OCD. But wait, this is not a smooshy teen romance and you will go between doubting every relationship to being grateful for them like a ping pong.
Repetition builds meaning; repeat enough times and that meaning becomes a cage, a cage whose bars you can rattle and shriek at, and never more.
There’s a small element of science fiction which is important to the plot. I’m not sure I liked the very ending, it seemed a bit of an unkind thing to do to Peter. I suppose that was the point, it leaves both you and the character wondering and ties in nicely with the liar’s paradox, a philosophical (and in this case mathematical) problem resulting from the sentence “this statement is a lie”. That gives you a hint to how mind-bending this book will be…
Note, this book is published in the US under the alternative title of This Book is a Lie.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 26. A book with an animal in the title
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Book source: purchased