Friday 25 June 2021

Book Review | Junk by Melvin Burgess

Publication Date: July 1st 2021 by Anderson Press (25th Anniversary Edition)
Format: Netgalley ARC
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary,  


Content warnings: substance abuse, strong language, strong violence, sexual assault, references to prostitution, teenage pregnancy


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.


My Thoughts

"Anarchy loves theatre. That's the whole point. People forget that. You have to laugh at the devil, not fight him."
I remember reading another of Melvin Burgess's books, Kill All Enemies, when I was 15 and it containing themes of abuse which really opened my eyes to different issues that teenagers were facing. Junk is an even more impressive feat that is equally heartbreaking as it is shocking. 
Junk is clearly a hard-hitting piece of fiction that focuses on two fourteen year old runaways who find themselves squatting in Bristol and eventually they're dragged deeper into the world of drug addiction and homelessness. Whilst it's aimed at teenagers this book contains some strong depictions of violence and sexual assault along with the copious amounts of drug references so something to be aware of when it comes to younger readers. 
The characters of Tar and Gemma aren't particularly likeable and it's easy to become frustrated with their actions and choices. At fourteen I had no idea what I was doing but these two have run away from home and are somehow surviving by living rough and stealing food. Their carelessness is vexing but Burgess also has you feeling sympathetic towards their situation due to their terrible home lives which is a sign of a well written character. The secondary characters all contribute to the narrative of teenage runaways and drug addiction with some being fellow kids that Tar and Gemma meet as well as a few adults that attempt to help them whilst still having issues of their own. 
Burgess's writing is superb, quite gritty but with a lot of interesting things to say. It's also very readable with a pace that's just right. I enjoyed being able to read from so many characters perspectives too, it allows the reader to get a full picture of the effects of heroine and how those taking it perceive what they're doing or more often then not excuse it. The drug use scenes aren't overly descriptive either but still very realistic, you can tell the author has done his research into the language used. It's also devastating to know that so much of what he wrote about was taken from real life as his brother was involved with drugs. 
Overall, this is an exceptional hard-hitting contemporary that handles drug addiction and teenage issues brilliantly. This is the type of book that should be read in school as it's one that definitely sparks conversation and debate regarding real life situations that teenagers face and would find it easy to be drawn into.  

* I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Anderson Press for providing me with a copy.

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