Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review of Smack.

Rating 4.3 stars out of 5 

 Genre:  Edgy Young Adult
Subject: A realistic look at heroine addicts in England.

Synopsis: Gemma runs away from home because her parents are too strict, Tar runs away because his father hits him. Different reasons, but the same end result. They become addicted to heroine and will do anything to get a high. Over the span of five years we are taken through their lives and meet the same people that they do, from addicts to the few that want to help them.

My Thoughts: As with Nicholas Dane this story was very sad, but well-written and captivating. Though, I did like Nicholas Dane better, I still got very much involved in the lives of Gemma and Tar, especially Tar. He was by far my favourite character, even though he had many faults. He was the type of person that you wanted to wrap up in cotton wool and keep away from the bad crowd, because he was so easily led into things. He was also the only one in the story that captured my heart, his sweet personality taking a real hammering with what he went through.

Gemma was a much stronger character than Tar. But at the beginning very selfish. Like Vonny, she frustrated the hell out of me, and at one point I really disliked her. But, she grew as a person. However, she had to go through absolutely horrible experiences to do so. In the end I did come to appreciate her character and it took a lot of guts for her to do what she had to in the end, which was admirable.

Lily was a horrifying character, because of how extreme she was. She was the biggest addict of all the friends, and her insistence that she was a good mother even when she shot up between her breasts while breastfeeding highlighted this perfectly. Her boyfriend, and the father of her child, was also a sad, sad character, especially with what we found out he had done in the end to get more junk.

I thought the author did a good job of portraying the characters in the story, and I also liked how he named each chapter according to the narrator, because I also do this in my Behind the Lives series. The internal monologues were well done, although at times they did get a little laborious. Nonetheless, the story was still captivating enough to get me through those moments. 

Because of this, "Smack" isn't the type of book that is read quickly. It took me a while, because of the slightly duller moments. But, I think this was also because Melvin Burgess was taking us through a realistic portrayal of life, and as with life you get both the lulls and the highs (pun intended). And, I think certain moments in the book also overrode the more duller points, making me appreciate this story very much. 

Keywords: Drugs, Heroin, Addiction, Prostitution, Teens, Young Adult, England, Squatting.

P.S. I remember reading a review, I think it was on Amazon, complaining that the author used the word "junk." This person complained that "junk" was an old-fashioned word and thus shouldn't be used. My thoughts were that the reviewer didn't read the book properly. Melvin Burgess uses appropriate words for the time period this story is set in: The 1980s. If he didn't, it wouldn't have felt right or have come across as so realistic.

Conclusion: A bittersweet story that was definitely worth the read.


  1. It's interesting what some individuals get stuck on. It takes skill to tailor the language to the time period or give it that effect. Sometimes individuals can miss the forest for a tree. Good illustration of this is what you suggested about "junk."
    Thanks for sharing.
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