Junk, by Melvin Burgess, is about drug addiction. Make no bones about it, this book is not for kids.
This book is as real is you can get in a fiction novel. No kidding you. It’s raw and fearless. I’ve read another of Burgess’ books called Kill All Enemies, and I realise that he likes to jump from different points of view. Each chapter is told from the eyes of a different character. This not only brings the whole book alive, but also bombards you with diverse perspectives, some of which tend to be polar opposites. It’s something I’d implore budding writers to check out, because it could really give them some ideas and develop their skills with writing characters.
The book’s main plot is centered around Gemma and Tar, a fourteen year old couple. Tar is gentle and wants to run away from home because of his abusive father, and Gemma…well, Gemma is a typical rebellious teen, who wants to run away with him. Tar leaves for Bristol, and despite having a perfectly loving pair of parents, Gemma leaves and meets him there.
The story progresses, and Gemma and Tar begin to experiment with marijuana and sex. The couple meet Lily and Rob, who are hard-core addicts. Gemma is taken with Lily’s confident, carefree personality, and on their–Lily and Rob’s insistence–the young, fourteen year old pair start smoking heroin, believing that they won’t get addicted to it.
Pretty soon, the four of them are best friends, involved with drug dealing, heroin, and prostitution…The lives of Gemma and Tar go through many downs and ups–(if ‘up’ is the right word. Maybe I should use ‘high’ instead?)–until finally, you’re left with a feeling of utter hopelessness, because Gemma, hateful Gemma, and Tar, sweet, gentle, sensitive Tar, seem just to far gone.
Five stars. That’s how much I give this book. (I promised not to rate on this blog, but I’ve decided that promises are meant to be broken.) As characters go, it’s a complete winner. This is just one of those novels you need to read if you like good characters. The plot is very dramatic, but not in a bad way. In fact, it’s quite believable and the style of writing just enforces this. It’s stark, and I love how it changes with the change in perspective.
Like I’ve mentioned before, Burgess likes to jump from character to character, and each protagonist has his or her own voice. It’s these little things that make a book feel real.
Junk is one of those things you have you read at least once in your life. It’s an eye-opener, a warning, and it broadens your mind to the big bad world out there.