Brooks, Kevin 1959- (Kevin M. Brooks)
Brooks, Kevin 1959- (Kevin M. Brooks)
Born March 30, 1959, in Exeter, England; married; wife's name Susan (an editor). Education: Attended Aston University, 1980; North East London Polytechnic, B.A., 1983.
Writer. Formerly worked performing and recording music. Worked various jobs in England, including musician, gasoline station attendant, crematorium handyman, civil service clerk, hot dog vendor at the London Zoo, post office clerk, and railway ticket office clerk.
White Raven Award, Branford Boase Award, Sheffield Children's Book Award, Lancashire Children's Book Award, South Lanarkshire Book Award, and Carnegie
Medal shortlist, all 2003, and Salford Children's Book Award, 2004, for Martyn Pig; London Guardian Children's Book Award shortlist, and Teenage Booktrust Prize shortlist, 2003, and North East Book Award, 2004, all for Lucas.
Martyn Pig, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Lucas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Kissing the Rain, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Bloodline, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2004.
(With Catherine Forde) I See You Baby, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2005.
Candy, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
The Road of the Dead, Chicken House (New York, NY), 2006.
Being, Penguin (London, England), 2007, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
Black Rabbit Summer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
"JOHNNY DELGADO" NOVEL SERIES
Like Father, like Son, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2006.
Private Detective, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2006.
A poet and musician as well as an author, Kevin Brooks has earned praise for his young-adult novels that extends well beyond his native England. While Brooks pays careful attention to his prose, he also crafts tight-knit plots that owe much to the dark themes of hard-boiled detective fiction. Brooks won Britain's prestigious Branford Boase Award for his first novel, Martyn Pig, and his more-recent novels, such as Kissing the Rain, Being, and Black Rabbit Summer, continue to draw the attention of critics and readers alike. In an interview for the Push Web site, Brooks remarked: "Being a writer is absolutely wonderful. I love writing, it's what I DO—thinking, writing, creating new worlds, it's fantastic."
While casting about for a career direction following college, Brooks wrote poetry and read widely, especially enjoying American detective novels by Raymond Chandler and Lawrence Block. He also worked in prose; In fact, Martyn Pig was actually his third completed novel. For the hero of Brooks's first novel, Martyn faces more than just the dilemma of going through life with a ghastly name. During the Christmas holiday, he witnesses the accidental death of his alcoholic, abusive father. Hoping to keep the man's death secret, Martyn seeks help from a would-be girlfriend named Alex, and together they craft a plan to dispose of the corpse. Despite its grisly subject matter, Martyn Pig abounds in humor, as the young narrator tries to come to terms with the strange twists his life takes. According to School Library Journal correspondent Connie Tyrrell Burns, Brooks's novel has "tremendous teen appeal" due to its unconventional subject matter and Martyn's "distinctive voice," and a Publishers Weekly critic praised the writer's "self-assured debut" as "at once hard-boiled … and … laugh-aloud funny."
Brooks's second novel, Lucas, is set on fictitious Hale Island, a small community separated from the mainland by a causeway that sometimes floods at high tide. The story's narrator, Caitlin McCann, recalls a previous summer when a strange, almost mystical loner named Lucas wandered onto the island. As Adèle Geras described the boy in London's Guardian: "He is wild. He is gifted. He is enigmatic. Also, he is deeply hated by the boorish, drug-fuelled, bored and jealous oafs in the community and their unpleasant and sinister female sidekicks." Unjustly accused of assaulting a girl, Lucas becomes the victim of vigilante justice, even as Caitlin falls in love with his inner goodness. Reviewing Lucas, a Publishers Weekly contributor predicted that the "powerful combination of big ideas and forthright narrative make this novel likely to linger in readers' minds." In Booklist Ilene Cooper cited the "purity" of the novel's prose, calling Brooks's narrative "by turns sweet, taut, and terrifying," while School Library Journal contributor Sharon Rawlins dubbed Lucas "extraordinarily lyrical" and "a powerful book to be savored."
A shy and overweight fifteen year old is the focus of Brooks's novel Kissing the Rain. Because of his passivity, Moo Nelson is bullied by his fellow students, but things go from bad to worse when he witnesses a car chase and violence that ends in tragedy. Another teen learns about life on the streets in Candy, Brooks's novel about a fifteen-year-old Londoner named Joe Beck who finds help in an unusual place when he meets and falls in love with a young drug addict. Comparing Kissing in the Rain to J.D. Salinger's coming-of-age classic Catcher in the Rye, Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed Brooks's novel "effectively oppressive" and attractive to reluctant readers, while in Booklist Jennifer Mattson described Candy as "provocative" and "suspenseful." While describing Joe's first-person narrative as overly self-absorbed, School Library Journal contributor Johanna Lewis nonetheless found that "Brooks's plotting is masterful, and the action [in Candy] twists and builds to a frenzied and violent climax."
Gypsy brothers Ruben and Cole leave London after their father winds up in prison in The Road of the Dead, another novel that mixes suspense with coming-of-age themes. In the wake of the tragic death of their older sister, the brothers travel to remote Dartmoor, determined to track down Rachel's murderer. Brooks draws readers into the mystery of Rachel's rape-murder while also weaving in urban gang violence, police corruption, and ESP. The Road of the Dead is "an adventure story with atmosphere and interesting character development," wrote Kliatt critic Myrna Marler, while a Kirkus Reviews writer praised the book for its "thrilling, gritty
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story and … memorable, heart-breaking characters." "Brooks's feel for mood and setting is as masterful here as in his taut, noir Martyn Pig, concluded Johanna Lewis in her School Library Journal review, the critic dubbing The Road of the Dead "a haunting, tense drama."
In Being Brooks "wraps high-speed, adrenaline-laced adventure around a thought-provoking exploration of the very nature of identity and existence," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the novel, Robert Smith is undergoing a routine medical procedure when doctors discover that the abdomen of the sixteen year old is filled with metal and plastic machinery. Fleeing from the hospital with the help of a stolen gun, Robert must now discover the key to his identity before he is apprehended by those who wish him harm. The Publishers Weekly critic cited Brooks's "tantalizingly open-ended conclusion" while Kliatt critic Paula Rohrlick wrote of Being that "there's no lack of suspense in [this] … gritty, exciting thriller." Brooks's "poetic descriptions" of the teen's robot-like components "are terrifying and beautiful," wrote Claire E. Gross in Horn Book, the critic adding that Being is shadowed by the troubled teen's "tense self-loathing."
The disappearance of two small-town teens is the focus of Brooks's young-adult novel Black Rabbit Summer. After haughty Stella Ross and troubled, lower-class Raymond disappear during an end-of-summer carnival, Raymond's friend Pete attempts to solve the mystery. Citing the "hallucinogenic imagery and inexorable pacing" of the novel's "intricately constructed" plot, Gross explained that Black Rabbit Summer serves up biting social commentary in its thrilling storyline. "Brooks is a fine writer," noted Cooper, "and he knows how to keep the tension high" in his fiction. Describing novel's plot as "sinister yet seductive," a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed Black Rabbit Summer characteristic Brooks due to its author's "painful awareness of teenage alienation … and a marked taste for ambiguity."
In an online interview with Nikki Gamble for Write Away!, Brooks explained: "I am interested in asking the questions which we think about a lot as kids, but get so used to when we grow up that we stop asking them. As adults we forget about the sky, and where we come from, and time, and pain, and all of those things; we just accept them…. Sometimes I get problems with American publishers who say they don't want to include this kind of thing because children aren't used to it or they won't understand it. But if you just keep avoiding difficult questions children won't learn to understand them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Lucas, p. 1595; February 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of
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Kissing the Rain, p. 1053; February 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Candy, p. 954; January 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 81; May 1, 2008, Ilene Cooper, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 46.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2004, Deborah Stevenson, review of Kissing the Rain, p. 221; February, 2005, Deborah Stevenson, review of Candy, p. 245; April, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 344; February, 2007, Deborah Stevenson, review of Being, p. 60; September, 2008, Deborah Stevenson, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 7.
Guardian (London, England), January 11, 2003, Adèle Geras, "Stand and Deliver."
Horn Book, March-April, 2003, Lauren Adams, review of Lucas, p. 210; May-June, 2006, Timothy Capehart, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 310; January-February, 2007, Clarie E. Gross, review of Being, p. 63; September-October, 2008, Claire E. Gross, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 578.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of Kissing the Rain, p. 34; January 15, 2005, review of Candy, p. 117; February 1, 2006, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 128; June 15, 2008, review of Black Rabbit Summer.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Martyn Pig, p. 15; March, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of Candy, p. 6; March, 2006, Myrna Marler, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 6; January, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of Being, p. 10; July, 2008, Paula Rohrlick, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 2002, review of Martyn Pig, p. 61; June 24, 2002, "Flying Starts," p. 27; February 10, 2003, review of Lucas, p. 188; January 31, 2005, review of Candy, p. 69; February 27, 2006, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 62; December 18, 2006, review of Being, p. 64; July 21, 2008, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 161.
School Library Journal, May, 2002, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Martyn Pig, p. 147; May, 2003, Sharon Rawlins, review of Lucas, p. 148; March, 2004, Jeffrey Hastings, review of Kissing the Rain, p. 203; March, 2005, Johanna Lewis, review of Candy, p. 210; April, 2006, Johanna Lewis, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 134; February, 2007, Kathy Lehman, review of Being, p. 116; August, 2008, Geri Diorio, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 116.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2004, review of Kissing the Rain, p. 41; April, 2005, Sophie Brookover, review of Candy, p. 36; April, 2006, Beth E. Anderson, review of The Road of the Dead, p. 38; October, 2008, Joyce Doyle, review of Black Rabbit Summer, p. 330.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (June 26, 2003), interview with Brooks.
Jubilee Books Web site,http://www.jubileebooks.co.uk/ (December 3, 2003), interview with Brooks.
Push Web site,http://www.thisispush.com/ (June 3, 2004), interview with Brooks.
Write Away Web site,http://www.writeaway.org.uk/ (January 20, 2009), Nikki Gamble, interview with Brooks.