Melody's Reviews > Smack

Smack by Melvin Burgess
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Jan 06, 11

bookshelves: burton-browbeating
Recommended to Melody by: Wendy Burton
Read from January 05 to 06, 2011

I was up a goodly portion of the night reading this book. I didn't mean to be. It's that kind of book, though.

Stark, brilliant and uncompromising, this is the story of a couple of kids who find a life less ordinary in the squats of early 1980s England. They also find heroin and love, though they have a hard time telling the two apart.

The way Burgess moves his reader from the head of one kid into the head of the next is a perfect vehicle to show how their interdependent rationalizations function. The slippery slope from self-serving narcissistic adolescence to self-serving narcissistic drug addiction is delineated in letters of fire here. The adults on the fringes are nicely drawn as well. The way people wander in and out of the circle is so well done as to be almost invisible.

This is a searing portrait of addiction and ruin that rings so true it's painful to read. The characters are not particularly sympathetic, but that also seems right.

Extremely minor quibble: there's a perfectly unnecessary glossary in the back- all the British slang is completely obvious in context.
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Wendy SO glad you liked this. It cast a spell over me when I first read it that, among other things, made me feel (for a moment, before I snapped out of it) like I hadn't done anything with my life because I was twenty and had not yet been a junkie prostitute.

I confess also that when I read it I wasn't familiar with several of the British words (I guess I was more up on 30s/40s Britishisms) and had a few misconceptions, none of them serious, until I found the glossary at the back. And that was ME, if I do say so as shouldn't. I bet it's helpful for lots of teenagers.

The edition I have now is one I bought in England, and I've read it often enough that Gemma and Lily and the others are almost as familiar to me as, say, Janet and Molly and Tina.


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