Sunday 30 May 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Junk by Melvin Burgess

Author: Melvin Burgess
Genre: YA Contempporary Fiction / Coming of Age / Romance
Publication Date: 3rd April 2014 (First Published 1996)

Book Description:
This 20th Anniversary edition of the classic novel comes with an introduction from former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman and bonus content following its controversial history, from its writing to when it won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

It was a love story. Me, Gemma and junk. I thought it was going to last forever.

Tar loves Gemma, but Gemma doesn't want to be tied down. She wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, finally, you have to come down. Melvin Burgess’ most ambitious and complex novel is a vivid depiction of a group of teenagers in the grip of addiction. Told from multiple viewpoints, Junk is a powerful, unflinching novel about heroin. Once you take a hit, you will never be the same again.

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Tar and Gemma are two teenagers from different backgrounds but both have the same urge to break free of their confined reality. Tar wants to escape from his abusive father while Gemma wants to escape her overly strict and controlling parents. When they decide to run away from home, they find that life on the streets comes with another set of demons they have to fight hard to evade. Battling homelessness and drugs might just be as bad or even worse than the life they so desperately wanted to escape. Survival has a new meaning in the new world they find themselves trapped in.

Love definitely comes in many different shapes and forms. The best thing about this novel was the characterisation and the authenticity of their portrayal. The plot was simple and straightforward, but there were times it dragged and got a little tedious, but I was so invested in the characters that I was encouraged to keep reading. Tar was my favourite character. His transformation from start to finish was intriguing. You couldn't help but love this character. Even though he was being physically abused by his father, he still had so much hope and still managed to see the beauty in the world. After running away from home and being taken in by an older group, that light inside him slowly started to fade once the addiction started to kick in. It was sad to experience, but quite an eye-opener and very moving. It took me a little longer to gravitate towards Gemma, I must admit. I didn't engage with her well throughout the first half of the book, but throughout the second half of the book, she went through her own transformation and became a character you're able to sympathise with more, which made her more likeable.

I wasn't too much a fan of the writing style, but it didn't bother me enough to make me put the book down. A lot of the times, it felt as if my outlook on the story and especially the characters were being overshadowed by the narrative voice, which somewhat hindered my desire to form my own impression of the characters and their stories. Having said that, I appreciated the fact that, even though I wasn't fully navigating my own interpretation, the portrayal I was presented with was so realistic that I could comprehend the difficulty and struggles the characters faced without even having no experience of the condition they lived in and the situation they found themselves trapped in. It goes to show that you don't have to experience something in order for it to feel real.

A very moving story about the struggles of heroine addiction and the many facets of love.


Rating: 4 Star
Source: Netgalley

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