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Tuesday 3 June 2008


by Melvin Burgess

A scorcher of a novel aimed at teenagers and young adults, this is an honest, pull-no-punches account of homelessness and the descent into drug addiction. It blew me away from the first page.

I had heard about this novel a long time ago, but avoided reading it because I thought it might be sensationalist and upsetting. Then I read some books by Melvin Burgess aimed at younger readers and admired the clear, lucid prose and the unsentimental heart beneath the stories. Junk turned out to be a very realistic and believable account of the adoption of a very different kind of lifestyle for two underage runaways. The writing is so textured you can smell the incense and the fag smoke. You can feel the sticky floors beneath your feet. The prose is sharp and edgy, totally compelling.

Tar is escaping an abusive, drunken household, Gemma is bored and seeking thrills. Their relationship begins unevenly, with shy innocent Tar adoring his spiralling-out-of-control 14 year old girlfriend. What follows is utterly compelling, full of amazing character and place detail. It is at once heartbreaking and full of hope. It is the anatomy of a relationship between maturing teens, between kids and drugs, between responsibility and danger. It is searing. I can’t recommend it highly enough to kids or adults.

reviewed by Annie Smith

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