by Burgess, Melvin

After running away from their troubled homes, two English teenagers move in with a group of squatters in the port city of Bristol and try to find ways to support their growing addiction to heroin.

Melvin Burgess is the author of many novels for young adult and middle-grade readers. Among them are Nicholas Dane, Doing It (a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age), The Ghost Behind the Wall (Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year) and Smack (winner of Britain's Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for Fiction, as well as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults). In 2001, he wrote the novelization of the film, Billy Elliot. Mr. Burgess lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in England.

Gr. 10^-12. Winner of both Britain's Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for children's fiction, this novel is a provocative, unrelenting story of teen heroin addiction in 1980s Bristol, England. Burgess neither romanticizes nor preaches the dangers of heroin use, but he clearly shows both the allure of the drug and the often inevitable addiction it creates. The story unfolds through the alternating perspectives of 10 different characters, but it concentrates on the narratives of Tar and Gemma, two teenage lovers who run away and end up living in a squat with teen heroin users. Despite the plethora of different voices, the characters remain distinct and refreshingly complex. Over a four-year span, readers will see them all believably grow and change (not always for the better). At the close of the story, Burgess integrates the voices of two parents, who emerge as flawed but caring individuals-much more responsive than the caricatures their children have earlier described. Although the omnipresent British slang (most but not all of which is explained in a glossary) may put off some readers, lots of YAs will be drawn to this book because of the subject. Those who are will quickly find themselves absorbed in an honest, unpatronizing, unvarnished account of teen life on the skids. A book for mature readers. ((Reviewed April 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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