I can give it up any time I want . . .
Sometimes maybe you need an experience. The experience can be a person or it can be a drug. The experience opens a door that was there all the time but you never saw it. Or maybe it blasts you into outer space. This time it was Lily and Rob and Gemma spending all that time to make me feel one of them, but it was the drug too. All that crap―about Gemma leaving me, about Mum and Dad, about leaving home. All that negative stuff. All the pain . . .
It just floated away from me, I just floated away from it . . . up and away . . .
I leaned back and I looked at the book and I looked at them and Gemma smiled at me, a big soft smile, and her eyes were like marbles.
"Better?" she said.
Smack is the winner of the 1996 Carnegie Medal in Literature.
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Like so many teenagers, Tar and Gemma are fed up with their parents. Tar's family is alcoholic and abusive, and Gemma feels her home life is cramped by too many restrictions. The young, British couple runs away to Bristol in search of freedom, and finds it in the form of a "squat." This vacant building is also occupied by two slightly older teens who share everything with Tar and Gemma (including their heroin habits). For a while, everything is parties and adventures, but slowly Tar and Gemma find themselves growing more and more dependent on the drug--whose strict mandates are even less forgiving than those of the parents they fled. As Gemma says, "You take more and more, and more often. Then you get sick of it and give up for a few days. And that's the really nasty thing because then, when you're clean, that's when it works so well."
With Smack, winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for Fiction, 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.) More subtle and less graphic than Beauty Queen, Linda Glovach's tale of a girl's downward spiral into heroin addiction, Smack will linger in the your mind long after its haunting conclusion has been reached. (Ages 13 and older) --Brangien DavisAbout 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.
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