Monday, 23 December 2013

Caragh Reviews - Junk by Melvin Burgess

Published - 6th March 2003
Publisher - Puffin Modern Classics
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - Two teens fall in love with each other and heroin. Tar has reasons for running away from home that run deep and sour, whereas Gemma, with her middle-class roots firmly on show, has a deep-rooted lust for adventure. Their first hit brings bliss, the next despair.

Four years ago when I met Brianna, she gave me this book to read with the guarantee that I would love it. After a year or so I gave it back to her, unread. I just didn't feel interested in it and didn't want to set aside any time for it. Since then though, she has a good idea of the books I read and love and she still insisted that I read it, and so I did. Thank god for pushy friends!

Junk tells the tale of two teenagers who are somewhat unequally in love with each other. Tar is lovesick for Gemma whilst she seems more excited about the prospect of Tar than the actual boy. Tar's family life is disturbing and erratic to say the least and so when he decides to run away from home, Gemma finds the whole thing exciting and can't wait to join in on the unlikely adventure.

Honestly, I completely devoured this book. I started it slowly, reading a few chapters. Then before I knew it it was 7am, I was completely exhausted and i'd read the entire book! Much like the content of the book, Junk was addictive, intriguing and really disturbing. As the title and front cover suggests, Junk focuses on heroin and it's effects on innocent children. What I loved about Junk was the societal discussions it beings to the table; how a perfectly ordinary pair of teenagers can make one bad decision and change their lives forever. I was concerned a little as Junk, at times, seems to promote drugs quite severely; describing in detail how much enjoyment these kids get from the drug, from being high and escaping their lives. I thought about this book long after I finished reading it and my initial thoughts weren't entirely correct. Burgess writes expertly and on reflection the warning signs and deterrents are in there! Though definitely subtle at times, the perspective gained from the book is striking and left me a little open-mouthed. It was truly inspiring.

I'm not entirely sure how I felt about the characters. Each one serves their purpose brilliantly but considering the circumstances it is difficult to actually 'like' them, perhaps with one or two exceptions. The character 'Lily' was truly devastating. It wrenched my heart and her inevitable downfall is where we really begin seeing the true dangers of heroin. I began the book thinking Gemma was a spunky, independent girl but by the end I had maybe a pinch of respect amongst a handful of dislike. I've never met anyone with severe drug problems as depicted in Junk so I can't comment on how realistic their actions and behaviours were but it was definitely believable. Junk was hard-hitting and a brilliant read and is well deserved of the awards that it received. 5 stars from me!

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