Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review: Smack

Title: Smack
Author: Melvin Burgess
Genre: YA Literary Fiction
Rating: A

Abbreviated Summary (from "Tar loves Gemma, but Gemma doesn't want to be tied down--not to anyone or anything. Gemma wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, somehow, finally, you have to come down.

"[Told] in the voices of many individuals, of two fourteen-year-old runaways in Bristol, England, who find a home with anarchists and get involved in vandalism, shoplifting, and prostitution to support their growing addiction to heroin."

Review: I've had this book for a couple of months (maybe six or more), I'd bought it on a whim after reading Burgess' other book, Doing It (which I had found to be fantastic). However, the story line of this one wasn't something that I'd normally have gone for. But it was time to get serious about my reading and I devised a little system whereby I forced myself to rotate between YA books, literary fiction (i.e., character-driven novels)/memoirs, and genre fiction (i.e., plot-driven novels), and I required that I read the books currently on my TBR shelves by date of original publication.

That excercise in self-discipline was well worth it because this book, that I'd been consistently overlooking, was amazing. Simply put. Amazing. Over on the website, there's a summary by a guy who's much more succinct then I'll ever be. He writes, "Melvin Burgess brilliantly sketches a gradual descent into drug addiction. There is no preaching here, just the artful revelation of cold, hard facts. Burgess's use of the first-person voice--for not only the main characters but those in the background as well--brings you into the mind of every character in this homeless, hooked culture, offering a (sometimes terrible) glimpse of the motivations and transitions of each person. (Tar's personality changes dramatically over the course of the book, from sweet-natured, lonely boy to hard-edged, hit-seeking addict.) ... Smack will linger in the your mind long after its haunting conclusion has been reached."

That is it in a nutshell. Smack might not be the best beach read you've ever picked up, but it definitely deserves to be picked up. The characters do stay with you and the book will change the way you see addiction. (I wrote that as if it were a guarantee because it made a big impact on me.)


Anonymous said...

Once again, glad you enjoyed it :)

As a follow-up to the comment you left on my blog, I wrote a post about other drug books I've read:

I've never watched The Wire or Breaking Bad, but I'm on the lookout...

Tonya said...

You've received an award. You can pick it up here:

Marie said...

I love it when something you don't expect just knocks your socks off like that!