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Smack
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About the Author

Melvin Burgess is the author of many novels for young adult and middle-grade readers. Among them are Nicholas Dane, Doing It (a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age), The Ghost Behind the Wall (Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year) and Smack (winner of Britain's Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for Fiction, as well as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults). In 2001, he wrote the novelization of the film, Billy Elliot. Mr. Burgess lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in England.

Reviews

In a starred review of this "searing" account of teens who become addicted to heroin, PW wrote that the "unflinching depiction of the seductive pleasures as well as insidious horrors of heroin... will leave an indelible impression on all who read it." Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 10 UpÄBurgess has taken the toxic concoction of young adults and drug use and presented a chilling reality. This novel is about runaway teens "squatting" (inhabiting abandoned buildings) in Bristol, England. Heroin is the main character. The results of unleashed adolescent experimentation is the theme. The book is powerful and calculated, intent on affecting readers and shattering pat illusions. When 14-year-old Gemma follows her friend, Tar, to the city, she discovers a spirited life accentuated by drugs and free of authority. They soon take up with Lily and Rob, two young junkies. Lily is the personification of Lady Heroin. She's stimulating, erotic, irresistibly intoxicating, in the beginning. At the end, she's used up, wallowing in an almost unfathomable level of inhumanity, injecting smack into the veins between her breasts while nursing her baby. The descent of these young people as they plunge into the heavy-user category is brutally honest. Through first-person accounts, the characters present their circumstances and past experiences in a measured voice, devoid of warmth. Readers are kept at viewing distance. Tar alone is seen in a fragile and vulnerable light. Will YAs devour this novel? Absolutely. It is filled with punk culture, sex, drugs, and life on the edge. As repugnant and horrifying as the journey, the fascination of the feel-good, live-fast, die-young mentality has a sickly sweet lure. Smack is not a lecture to be yawned through. It's a slap in the face, and, vicariously, a hard-core dose of the consequences of saying "yes."ÄAlison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY

"Searing . . . unflinching . . . seductive . . . insidious . . . flawless. This is one novel that will leave an indelible impression on all who read it." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "Cuts to the bone. . . . Based on actual people and incidents, this harrowing tale is as compellingly real as it is tragic." --Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review "Heroin chic? Far from it." --Teen People "The book is powerful and calculated, intent on affecting readers and shattering pat illusions. . . . [B]rutally honest." --School Library Journal, Starred Review "Smack is filled with cool British lingo and interesting characters, all the while subtly delivering a harrowing message about addiction." --Seventeen "Grim and cautionary novel." --The New York Times Book Review "Smack pulls no punches: Drugs can be fun. And Smack makes it relentlessly clear that fun comes at a vicious price. . . . It will leave you reeling." --Denver Post "[A]n honest, unpatronizing, unvarnished account of teen life on the skids." --Booklist "[A] gritty, no punches-pulled chronicle." --News and Observer, Raleigh, NC "It does exactly what teenagers want a book to do. It tells the truth. It doesn't preach. It makes you think. . . .Smack is as addictive as the drug it profiles. You will not be able to put it down." --VOYA "The book sticks with you." --Seattle Post Intelligencier "[A] boot-in-the-gut look at British kids on the dole and drugs." --Toronto Globe & Mail

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