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Smack [Library Binding]

Melvin Burgess
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)

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Library Binding, April 11 2008 --  
Paperback CDN $11.24  
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Book Description

April 11 2008 1435232798 978-1435232792 Reprint

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

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 Davis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars everything you never knew about heroin May 27 2002
This book tells you what it's about right in the title; it's about smack, heroin, junk, whatever you want to call it. Smack is about two fourteen-year-olds living in squats in England in the 1980s. One of them, Tar, has an alcoholic mom and gets beat up by his dad so he runs away to live in a squat. His girlfriend, Gemma, hates her parents' restrictions, so she runs away to live with him. In Bristol, they meet two other teenagers, who introduce them to the drug that consumes their lives, heroin. Over the next four years, they are faced with addiction, prostitution, and numerous other things they didn't count on as they fall into and out of love with each other and heroin. They struggle with getting out of the deep hole of addiction, facing their parents, and regaining the lives they've created but have lost control of; all while learning many lessons about life, love, and themselves.
Burgess' style of writing each chapter from the view of a different character really pulls you into every side of the story, so that you feel like you are there. You come to know the characters inside and out, love them; you feel their pain and their joy. You worry for them and cheer for them throughout the whole book. But in addition to knowing the characters, you end up knowing the drug, heroin. This book reinforces everything you've ever been taught about drugs in a way more real than any health class.
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants some drama, excitement, and emotion in a book. Teens especially will enjoy this book because they can relate to the feelings and the mindsets of the characters and what they are experiencing in this modern setting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The answer to, "Mummy, what's wrong with heroin?" March 25 2002
By Kristen
This book is so realistic it hurts. The plot in "Smack" introduces us to David--"Tar," and Gemma. Tar is a 14-year-old boy who comes from a broken home where his parents are both alcoholics, his father abuses both him and his mother, and his mother is manipulative of him. Gemma, his girlfriend, is also 14 and comes from what would be considered a relatively stable home, even if she doesn't get along with her parents and they make life "hard" for her. Tar runs away and is soon joined by Gemma, and we journey with them down their dark path to life on the streets and heroin addiction.
I love the vivid descriptions Burgess gives of the feeling of being high, how awful the withdrawal is, and how the addiction can destroy lives. The kicker is when Lily, another heroin addict, gives birth to a child who is born a junkie. This is just one example of the slap in the face of reality of this book.
The story is told from alternating different characters' points of view, making for a very interesting effect. You get to know what the characters are like before they're addicted and how they change. Tar's personality, in particular, begins as that of a sweet, artistic and intelligent young man until he is swallowed by the smack, and that's all he has time and energy to be; an addict.
This book is very sad. Why? It's all true. Worth your time, definitely.
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4.0 out of 5 stars As addictive as the drug itself Jan. 24 2002
By Julia
Smack is an amazing, powerful, amazingly powerful book. It portrays a side of the world that you don't normally see. It pulls you head first into a world of drugs, sex, and booze. Mainly drugs, particularly smack (smack, junk, heroin, whatever floats your boat). And there are some strange parallels between smack and Smack. When you start the book, you think, "This is a good book. I like it. I can take it or leave it, but I'd rather take it." Then, as the book progresses you find it harder and harder to put down. And when you HAVE to put it down for something else, you find your mind wandering back to the book, and you become more absorbed in its reality than your own. And finally, you may as well be surgically attached to it, because you just CAN'T put it down. And (here's where it's different) when it's all over and the dust clears, you have NO regrets. So, I guess, the book is better than the drug. But read it in moderation because you may get so wrapped up in the characters' lives and neglect your own, eventually causing your friends and family to leave you all alone with Smack. And the lesson: Be careful with Smack, kids; it could ruin your life.
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By Kate
This book is a simply written, somewhat shocking read of teenage drug addiction and the seemingly ingradual process of innocence to innocence lost through unbearably addictive heroin.
It is a grossly easy, fast and hugely enthralling read, and like previous reviewers, I was throughout the work reminded of the superb 2000 film 'Reqiuem for a Dream'. Similarly, 'Smack' documents the fallout of innocent somewhat naive characters into a frighting drug underworld of prostitution and crime.
Put simply, the piece is really about the brief passage of time between control and addiction, and suggests that even the most seemingly in control can never understand when and why the boundaries between enjoyment and sickness have crossed over.
The demise of the characters is both disturbing and frightening, especially Tar, who eventually comes to represent the cold brutality he so despises in his father. This again suggests that no one can ever truly be in control, that we are all one step, one injection away from chaos, that we are all non practicing addicts. It is a scary thought, certainly, and the composer illustrates how heroin addiction can take place in a mere matter of weeks.
The book, while beyond tame in comparison to the utterly disturbing and life changing 'Reqiuem for a Dream', still contains images that will forever play in your head. A teenage addict calming her addicted child by putting grains of heroin in
her gums, for example.
However, I found the book slightly simplistic in the approach to drugs in general. It suggests that all drugs like marijauna will certainly lead to heavier things and dependencies, and whilst many do, a great proportion do not. Thus this forms the basis of my four star rating.
Despite this tiny flaw, this is a completely valuable and worthwhile read and a superb portrayal of the horrors of drugs. It illustrates how fine that line is between in and out of control is.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring in the beginning but I bet it would be good later...
My gosh the beginning is pretty boring. Okay the first 2 pages or something are pretty interesting but when you enter the first chapter you begin to lose motivation of reading the... Read more
Published on June 18 2003 by Hanna
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!
I really like this book and i recommend everyone to read it... ... trust me everyone will love this book! ...this is my favorite book of all time! Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2003 by Brianna Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars heroin
this book was really good and i enjoyed reading it, the beginning seemed to drag on but later on in the book it began to get interesting and i really liked it. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2003 by lindsey
5.0 out of 5 stars My Opinion
This book is not only about two runaways from their home life. It is about the alienation that your environment has on you. Read more
Published on July 26 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars smack
Smack is a very good book, it is my favorite book ever. It talks about a kid having trouble at home and his dad beats him and his mom, so he runs away and gets involved in drugs... Read more
Published on May 21 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars smack
Smack is a very good book, it is my favorite book ever. It talks about a kid having trouble at home and his dad beats him and his mom, so he runs away and gets involved in drugs... Read more
Published on May 21 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read!
This book is deffinently a favorite of mine! Melvin Burgess is brilliant when describing the highs and lows of drug abuse. Read more
Published on May 15 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Smack didn't hurt me at all!!
The reason why I read smack was because of the books main idea. Smack was something for teens and how to face teen problems. It delt with drugs and other teen no no's. Read more
Published on March 24 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Trip
Smack is an excellent look into the lives of two teenagers who are rebelling against the norm, and get sucked in too far. Read more
Published on March 3 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down
I really loved this book. i came across it killing time at a barnes and noble bookstore not intending to buy anything. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2002 by Laura
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