NOTE: I believe this is also called ‘Smack’ – both titles are slang for heroin
Tar and Gemma are young teenagers who run away together; Tar has a reason, Gemma doesn’t – Gemma is bored of her life at home and sick of her parents, whereas Tar’s dad regularly beats him. They become squatters, and meet up with other runaways who introduce them to drugs; they are soon addicted, especially to heroin, and end up doing awful things like stealing and prostitution to fund their addiction. But whilst it is the central focus, this novel isn’t really about that; it’s about growing up – struggling and evolving as a person, or at least that’s how I interpreted it.
Take Gemma for instance – at the beginning of the novel she was an annoying and selfish character who was immensely dislikeable, but by the end she had subtly changed into a much better person. The novel was written in the nineties, but set in the eighties and still manages to feel as though it is in the present-day, which shows that this is an ongoing problem, and I like the messages that the book holds.
I felt that there were too many points of views, some of which were hard to keep track of, although they did provide a good insight into character’s heads, and each one was unique. I wasn’t too keen on Burgess’ writing style – it was easy to get into, but a bit jarring at times.
It’s very bleak, realistic and hard to read some of the time, as well as being one of the grittiest books I’ve read, as Burgess doesn’t shy away from anything, and although it isn’t my kind of book (the reason why I’ve rated it lowly), I can see a number of people enjoying this powerful read.
[SYNOPSIS: Junk = heroin = bliss = despair = a love story you’ll never forget.
Gemma wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, somehow, finally, you have to come down.An uncompromising, compelling and true-to-life story of two teenagers drawn into the dangerous and destructive world of heroin addiction.]