Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Caragh Reviews // Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe

Published - 27th August 2015
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADD. Soon every troubled teen is on it. It makes sense, doesn't it? Keep the undesirable elements in line. Keep people like us safe from people like them. What's good for society is good for everyone. Troy, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 as long as they can remember. They're not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet, watchful sidekick - the only one Blaze really trusts. They're not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it. What makes five kids pick a man seemingly at random - a nobody, he works in the housing department, doesn't even have a good phone - hold a knife to his side, take him to a warehouse and chain him to a radiator? They've got a hostage, but don't really know what they want, or why they've done it. And across the course of five tense days, with a journalist, a floppy-haired mayor, a police negotiator, and the sinister face of the pharmaceutical industry, they - and we - begin to understand why ...This is a book about what how we label children. It's about how kids get lost and failed by the system. It's about how politicians manipulate them

I have genuinely dreaded having to review this book - hence it being late.
I'm also not entirely sure that my thoughts are going to come out coherently so please don't hold that against me.

The premise of this book literally blew my mind. When I read what the book was going to be about, I knew that one way or another I was going to read it. It also kind of reminded me of the Melvin Burgess book 'The Hit'. ADHD is a HUGE deal. It's sad to think that there are very few people out there that don't know somebody who has been diagnosed with it, or at least know somebody by association. It's also true that it's becoming more acceptable to label children at an earlier age. In a lot of ways that's a GREAT thing - we're able to put a name to things and help from a much earlier stage in a child's life but it's also just....not great.

With a condition like ADHD, kids are not only labelled but are judged, categorised and it's assumed that just by 4 letters, they are kids that act up and pay no attention. Concentr8 really tries to focus on that side of things - what happens when kids are labelled pre-emptively just by behaviour?

So what exactly is the reason I've been dreading this? Pretty much everything BUT the premise if i'm honest. The kids (and book) are London based and i'm sure it's a statement on the type of kids who are being targeting within the book, but the language and the way it was written was my idea of a nightmare. There were incomplete sentences, so much slang I was starting to wonder if I was actually understanding what was being said, and the constant switching between characters and stream of consciousness was way too confusing.

Despite that, I still could have enjoyed it if it wasn't for the fact that, honestly, nothing really happened. I don't feel like the story progressed at all. There were a few moments (involving the journalist) where I thought the book was going to become something wonderful and truly meaningful but it failed for me. I haven't done much research on this book so PLEASE say something if you know more, but if this book is a standalone then I would honestly say give this one a miss and pick up something more worthwhile for your time.

There were a lot of points that could have deeply been explored and made a massive impression not just upon me, but on literature as a medium. That said, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the many footnotes and extracts from medical sources about ADHD, therapy and medication throughout the book. Those alone would have made for interesting reading if you throw out the rest of it.

Apologies to Sutcliffe but this really wasn't for me. It was a fantastic idea that never reached its potential for me. It was disappointing and bored me from start to finish.

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