by Melvin Burgess

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I can give it up any time I want . . .

Sometimes maybe you need an experience. The experience can be a person or it can be a drug. The experience opens a door that was there all the time but you never saw it. Or maybe it blasts you into outer space. This time it was Lily and Rob and Gemma spending all that time to make me feel one of them, but it was the drug too. All that crap—about Gemma leaving me, about Mum and Dad, about leaving home. All that negative stuff. All the pain . . .

It just floated away from me, I just floated away from it . . . up and away . . .

I leaned back and I looked at the book and I looked at them and Gemma smiled at me, a big soft smile, and her eyes were like marbles.

"Better?" she said.

Smack is the winner of the 1996 Carnegie Medal in Literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312608620
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 06/08/2010
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 518,656
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A boy and a girl were spending the night together in the if back seat of a Volvo estate car. The car was in a garage. It was pitch black.

"I'm hungry," complained the girl.

The boy turned on a torch and peered inside a grey canvas rucksack behind him. "There's an apple."

"Nah. Any crisps left?"


Gemma sighed and leaned back in the car. She pulled a blanket over herself. "It's cold," she said.

"Barry'll be here soon," Tar said. He watched her closely in the torchlight, frowning anxiously. "Sorry you came?" he asked.

Gemma looked over and smiled. "Nah."

Tar snuggled up against her. Gemma stroked his head. "You better save the batteries," she said in a minute.

Tar turned off the torch. At once it was so black you couldn't see your own hand. Surrounded by the smell of damp concrete, oil and petrol, they carried on their conversation cuddling in the dark.

Tar said, "Come with me."

"What?" She was amazed, surprised. It had never occurred to her...He could feel her staring at him even though it was too dark to see anything. In the darkness, Tar blushed deeply.

"You must be crazy," said Gemma. "Why?"

"What have I got to run away from?"

"Wait till you get home." The two laughed. Gemma had been banned a week before from seeing Tar. Her parents had no id your age sit around watching grown men acting like fools? It'sridiculous!''

Ezra groaned, partly because his father continued to block the television screen and partly because the man at bat had struck out.

Even though he had explained them to him a hundred times, his father kept forgetting the rules of baseball. He still insisted that RBI meant "rubbish brought inside." He couldn't remember "runs batted in." And if Ezra told him that somebody hit a double, Mr. Feldman always asked, "Does that mean they got two points?" Ezra didn't know how a person who could read ancient Greek could be that dumb.

Mrs. Feldman said it was because Ezra's father had grown up in Europe, where baseball is not a popular sport. Mr. Feldman had been born in Germany and had been sent to England before the Second World War. After the war he came to the United States, but it was too late. "I think you have to be born in America to appreciate baseball," Mrs. Feldman explained to her son. "It's the same with pumpkin pie." Indeed, Mr. Feldman didn't like pumpkin pie either, and both Ezra and his mother loved it. Even Harris, born in Chicago and raised in New Jersey, liked pumpkin pie despite his indifference to baseball.

Pumpkin pies came in the fall, just when the baseball season was ending. They were a small compensation. But Ezra kept watching the. calendar and counting the days until February. In February, spring training began, and the newspapers would be filled with more baseball information.

Ezra's favorite month of the year was April when the baseball season opened and his birthday occurred. His birthday was April first, and the baseball season usually opened a few days later.

"April is when the income tax is due," Mr. Feldman would remember. He forgot the new baseball season, but at least he remembered the taxes and his son's birthday. Two and a half weeks before Ezra's tenth birthday, his father came home with an early gift, an electronic chess game for them to share. But sharing a chess game wasn't like sharing a pumpkin pie with his mother. For one thing, Mr. Feldman played with the chess game much more than his son did. Ezra understood the basic rules of chess, but the game wasn't exciting like baseball. Besides, when he played chess with his father, he always knew the outcome of the game in advance. Mr. Feldman won every time.

"You have to lose a lot of games and understand the reasons why you lost before you can win," his father explained. Unfortunately, instead of being encouraged, Ezra found this information more discouraging than ever.

"What's the matter with you?" complained Mr. Feldman. "Harris was beating me when he was your age."

"Ezra is just as smart as Harris, in his own way," Mrs. Feldman said, defending their son. "Someday he'll surprise us. just be patient."

Mrs. Feldman was a radiologist, and at work she was called Dr. Feldman. She worked much longer hours at North Shore Hospital than Mr. Feldman (who was also called Dr. Feldman) worked at Queens College, where he taught. When she came home, she relaxed by listening to classical music on the stereo. She also liked to do crossword puzzles. She was quite good at them, but she could never have finished a puzzle without the assistance of her husband and son. If she needed to know the name...

Baseball Fever. Copyright © by Johanna Hurwitz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Smack 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 190 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
`SMACK' is absolutely amazing. It gives you a real sense of what it's like for young teens that face temptation and addiction everyday. I found this book to be very interesting and full of dramatic points of view on life and `the life of drugs'. I could not put this book down, I found myself carrying it everywhere and reading a real and I found myself wanting to help them. The way Melvin Burgess wrote the book was unique, each "chapter" was narrated by different characters and I've never read a book like that. I am not the type of person who likes to read, but this book was definitely well written. I loved it!
This book was about two young teens that ran away from home and lived in a town full of people like them, runaways. All of the characters in this book come from different backgrounds and have very different attitudes about life, but all have the same problem: addiction. Throughout the book Gemma and Tar stick by each other and destroy their lives little by little. The two main characters Tar and Gemma are in love but, as time passes they each find the same new love: whether it's a drug or a lifestyle or even both, I'll leave it up to you to read...
I highly recommend this book to other readers who are looking for an easy read about real life issues teens face daily. This book is written beautifully and you feel like your actually talking to the characters and they are telling you in such detail what they are going through. This book can make you laugh, cry, and get angry all at the same time. I would recommend this book to everyone. `Five Stars!' * * * * *
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well, if your like me then im sure this would be one of the best books you can possibly read. It's wonderful and full of twists and life changing problems. Gemma and Tar go through alot and the heroin doesnt help them.
baachan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I believe the word "gritty" is the first adjective that comes to mind to describe this book. Burgess gives us a story of addiction and disintegration, followed by the struggle to rebuild a fully-functioning life. Tar, officially named David, runs away from his physically abusive father and emotionally manipulative mother. He heads to Bristol and falls in with some friendly vegan anarchists, who set him up with a place to live. His girlfriend, Gemma, comes to join him and after becoming dissatisfied with life in the anarchist squat, she meets two heroin addicts who invite her to come and live with them in their squat. She tries heroin, and then gets Tar to try it, and their addiction starts to spiral out of control. At first, they're just smoking it, but then they start injecting it. Burgess portrays their slipping into carelessness, first saying that none of the group ever shares needles, then they start sharing among their core group of 4, and then it becomes clear that no one really cares. The girls in the group either work the street or in a massage parlor, while the boys sell drugs or shoplift. Burgess does a good job of depicting the decay that addiction brings into their lives; it's an engrossing read, but not because it's glamorous, heroin-chic or anything like that. It was like watching a car wreck or someone fallen and bloody on the sidewalk. It was a lot like Trainspotting (the film), in some ways. In the end, Gemma and Tar clean up, but their relationship is unsalvageable. Part of the strength of the novel comes from the use of multiple voices to tell the story. You hear from Gemma and Tar, as well as the secondary characters: Gemma's mother, Tar's dad, Lily, Rob, Richard, and Skolly. It creates a more complete picture of outwardly radiating impact that addition has had on the lives in the novel. Appropriate for mature teens; I would not want younger teens reading this. It would be a good novel for a junior or senior English class, where students can read it with the guidance of a teacher. Recommended for public library teen collections, but it may be too controversial--sex AND drugs--for a school collection. There are some graphic descriptions of injection drug use included.
pandawnmonium on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At times, this book can be confusing if perhaps you are not familiar with British slang. Luckily, it's fairly easy to follow if you go by context for the most part. I read the original version of this when I was in high school and I was completely fascinated with the little world that Burgess creates. At times this book can be shocking, the content is very vividly written. I enjoyed it a great deal and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a reality-based book.
Raben on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Smack by Melvin Burgess drugs, sex, and anarchy, what's not to love? A sad yet happy story that I absolutely loved. It takes you through the hardships of two teenagers that ran away from home and learn to live on the streets. the boy ran away from a life of abuse while the girl ran away because her parents where too strict. a great story, with great life lessons. i recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially those having problems in their life.
ellamcc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To sum up the book and save you the horror: 1) Running away often leads to drug addiction and other unsavory things. 2) Drugs are bad. 3) Drug addiction leads to more unsavory things, but don't expect this book to be clear about any of them.I'm having difficulty finding anything good for young adolescents about drug use. They all read (including the much-hailed, much-maligned Go Ask Alice) as pathetic attempts to scare kids, and the information is as incomplete as it is uninteresting. However, on to this book:As a former heroin addict who has been clean for well over a decade, I may be slightly biased in that I really don't need a book to "scare me straight." I knew going in that I didn't feel like reading yet another drug-elogue. Even if I did, this wouldn't be the one. It's hard to know where to begin, since virtually everything is wrong with this book, and I couldn't find anything to make me like it. I simply pushed through because I tend to do that with books, good or bad. Characters so flat, it was a bit like trying to get a story out of a person nodding out every ten seconds (very frustrating for those of you who've never had the pleasure.) Second, there's a blatant message of "DRUGS = BAD." OK, we got that way back when Ron and Nancy were in the White House. Heck, we had it when Sid and Nancy exploded...and all the other people before and after them. Everyone knows heroin is bad. Ignorance of this fact is not the reason people become addicts. With flat writing, characters and "plot." and a message that beats you about the head like a PSA, there is no way to recommend this book. So many books more accurately and honestly portray the truth of heroin addiction, and they do it in a nuanced, complete and meaningful manner. Despite my love of the shape and texture of this book, I cannot recommend anything within said cover.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an edgy adolescent lit book that transcends the genre. Adults will enjoy the story too. Smack is action-packed and full of all the good stuf no one will admit to liking.
mattsya on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well-depicted setting in a world that will be unfamiliar to many readers. Burgess fills the novel with slang, so much that a glossary is provided. This a good novel of a subculture that will be both foreign and intriguing to many readers.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was horrifyingly wonderful. The author did a nice job creating the characters.
Omrythea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tar and Gemma are two teenagers who get fed up with their families and run away. Tar¿s dad is abusive and both his parents drink way too much. Gemma thinks her parents are overprotective and won¿t let her do anything. These British teens run away to squat, or live in a vacant house, off the Bristol streets. There they befriend many interesting people, some who try to steer them away from heroin and some who wholeheartedly embrace the drug. The drug wins out and Tar and Gemma become increasingly addicted to heroin, a drug that demands their complete attention. Though many horrific events happen to them and to many of their friends, they find themselves unable to walk away from the drug.
nm.fall07.a.allen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read all of this book but so far i think that it is good. I like how it is so realistic and tells what actually goes on in the world other than the "perfect poeple" and what they do. In it there is a boy named Tar and he runs away and the author made it so he doesn't have a job and needs money and that is what it's like for people that run away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting how it would feel like to try herion. I was expecting raw emotions but really it's really only about some ungrateful brat who dutches her parents for a boy she doesn't even have real feelings for. Too predictable.
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Marquis-Ephraim More than 1 year ago
In the novel Smack by Melvin Burgess, he introduces many themes and purposes for why things take place the way they do. The purpose for reading this book was gain awareness of the affects of drug abuse, squatting, and prostitution. I rated this book as a 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book because it was very relatable, and i could imagine the situations that were taking place. My favorite chapter of the book was the chapter when all the characters were taken out of their comfort zones, and they were actually able to think about how their poor decisions and negative influences had a huge impact on their own lives. They were able to open their eyes and their minds and recognize their mistakes. My understanding of drug abuse has drastically changed after reading this book. I used to think that people who were addicted to drugs were stupid and it was easy to stop. After reading this book, i now realize that sometimes it is more than drugs can really divide a person's sense of reality and immagination.
Ivana_Tisdale More than 1 year ago
"Smack" by Melvin Burgess was absolutely amazing. it was crazy but amazing. the book gives you a real sense of what its like for young teenagers that face peer pressure, temptation and drug addiction everyday. i found this book to be very interesting and full of dramatic views on life and drugs. it was hard for me to put the book down, i found myself addicted to the book to where i felt like i was in the story with them. Melvin Burgess made "Smack" unique , each chapter was narrated by each of the characters and i usually dont read books but i made this book an acception i enjoyed it! The novel "Smack" was about two young that ran away from home to live in a town full of people like them, Runaways. all the characters in the book come from many different backgrounds and have different views on life, but they all battle the same problem: Addiction. Throughout the book Gemma and Tar stand by each others side destroying their lives little by little. The main characters Tar And Gemma are in love but as time passes they both find the same new love: whether it's a drug or decision, you'll just have to read it to find out. i highly recommend this book to other readers who are looking for an easy read about the issues teens go through daily. you will feel like you can relate to the characters as if your in their shoes. i rate the book 5 Stars.
Charles-Bright More than 1 year ago
The novel, Smack speaks more for itself then most books. It takes the life of a one-sided couple who runaway on different circumstances. The two are sent into a world of heroin and the challenges of keeping themselves or losing to their addiction of the drug. It is truly of test of wits, will, and heart as the novel leads them from little kids to adults. The meet with a junkie couple who turns their lives to addiction and by ‘saving’ them from their family and others heroin is then taking to a whole new level. The boy Tar has been beating on by his father and had been trying to protect his mother throughout the young life he’s had with his parents. His mother wouldn’t stop drinking and leave him so Tar ran away after taking countless beatings. Gemma has become a rebel and a brat. She wanted freedom and her parents were taking that away from her. She also has a ‘monkey-see-monkey-do attitude that leads to many of her downfalls throughout her life in the novel. Tar and Gemma has been a couple for a few weeks or more and he’s absolutely crazy about her. Gemma likes Tar but in some chapters she does ‘flip-flopping ‘motions. It is a great book to read due to the fact that not only is there sex& drugs but emotion behind it. People will not like to read a lot of books that or dry that is a few some people will consider. I will rate this 5-star because of the key elements and how the characters are portrayed. My favorite Chapter in the novel is when Tar had taken the wrap for everything once of drugs that were in the house where Gemma were. He wasn’t trying to let Gemma go to jail. He also had a thought to get clean in his own mind so he can be better for her. During the time he was in rehab Gemma had been writing to him and was trying to stay clean for him as well. After months of recovery he returns to the gang and an excited Gemma. During the party Vonny looks for Tar and when she finds him, He’s smiling big and glossy-eyed. My least favorite chapter was when Tar and Gemma had gone to a rave. She was feeling herself and the music so much she followed the crowd after her and Tar danced awhile. He asked to head back and she declined and flipped him off without another word. She was dancing up and o=anther people and a guy gave her a drink and asked to come home with him. She gave one more look at Tar then she nodded and went with him. After talking to the other girls in the limo she jumped out and hugged Tar then gave him his present. She would have left Tar at the rave if she didn’t give him a present. Melvin Burgees style of writing is very creative and keeps you into the story with a curious intent on what will happen next. I applaud him on his way of thinking and the new understanding of drugs. It makes me want to make a book on drugs as well. I hope he makes more interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The novel smack written by Melvin Burgess was a very exciting book to read. it kept my attention from beginning to end with everything that happened to each character. i enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to a friend. although i had to read it for school purposes it will be a book ill always remember reading. my momst memorable part of reading this novel would have to be when everyone reied to quit all of the drugs they were taking. it really stuck with me because right then i realized just how depepndent they were on smack. Burgess really got the message through to me with the writing style that was used. it felt like i could relate to the teens who ran away from their issues. a lot of times thats what most teens who face conflicts at home want to do and this showed me how easily a young mind can be manipulated. Tar was my favorite character in the book because he began with good intentions. all he really wanted was to be loved and in the end he was defeated by that thirst for love and affection. i had prior knowledge to how drugs can affect people but this book really gave me a different insight and confirmed all of my previous notions. this was a great book and in my personal opinion deserves the 5 stars i gave it because it showed you a little bit of everything in the streets and the outside world.
marks2 More than 1 year ago
The novel smack by, Melvin Burgees was a very good book i read it in school. i liked the book alot due to the fact that it related what was going on in society today. i do not agree with what some of the characters did in the book, like when gemma decided to runaway from home at the age of 14. that was really sad but it got worse when they got addicted to herion. i would consider young adults to read this book to show them whats out there in the world. i would use this book to give young people a scare so they would not runaway at a young age. my favorite chapter in the book was towards the end when tars dad spoke about how messed up his relationship was with his son. tars dad admitted that he messed up and hope that one day tar would give him a call and ask for advice. that was very sad and i felt sorry for tars dad. in other words the book is great i would give it a four star rating . it shows the challenges that a young person might have to go through in the society today. i would recommend young adults between the ages of 13-18 to read this novel.
RayROSE More than 1 year ago
'SMACK' is a book I would definitely recommend all teenagers to read. It teaches about what heroin can do and who it can do and who it can effect. It effected friends and familly that weren't even on heroin in a major way. The way Burgess wrote the book was not only to tell the heroin addicts P.O.V, but even the friends and family P.O.V. Tar and Gemma are two runaways that were innocent and in love until they met Lily and ROb. Lily and Rob are kind of the reason why the book became so interesting. Before them two, Tar and Gemma were only two runaways that smoked weed and got drunk. A year later, they become heroin addicts. The story itself is sad, but the intensity it brings out is brillian. Melvin Burgess deserves an award.
Asja-Willams More than 1 year ago
In the novel, Smack by Melvin Burgess was a great book to let students read. The purpose of reading Smack was to let teenagers read the experiences of other teenagers in the book. I would rate this book out of scale one through ten a ten. I liked this book because I see the different point of view of how the teenagers felt about prostitution, drugs and teen pregnancy. My favorite chapter was Gemma calling the police and wanting to get out of the terrible situation that she was in. My least favorite chapter was Tar and Gemma trying drugs because easily they got hooked on to it. I like the fact that Burgess wrote in each character’s point of views because you can actually understand where they are coming from. My new understanding of drug abuse is never try it because you can easily become hooked and start doing things that cause you to change and willing to give up anything to get more and more drugs.
blakeborn More than 1 year ago
The novel smack by Melvin Burgess was a great novel. At first I thought I would be just another book about addiction that I would have to read for school but after the first couple of chapters I was the one addicted to smack (the book). His writing style is so unique and in depth he not only gives you the story but he makes it seem as if you’re in the book he makes the reader feel so involved and the way the story is put together is perfect. The characters are so real it almost seems as if you’re reading a memoir he brings life to all his characters no one is left out or unheard feelings thoughts and emotions get brought to the light from all sides which make this an ideal read for anyone. I would rate the novel smack five out of five stars but because the story is hard to follow when you have to read the story from so many angles after a while it may be hard to follow or you might lose a little focus and drift away from the novel and because of this I rate this book four out of five. Melvin Burgess changed the way I look at addicts and squatters I understand that it’s more than what meets the eye and not to be so quick to judge. In the story the main character has a main character has a dad that abuses him and you get every side of the story but his and at the end you get a chapter from his dad explaining why thing were the way they were. And that was my favorite part of the book. So overall smack by Melvin burgess was a great novel.
dmo1 More than 1 year ago
In the novel Smack by Melvin Burgess two teens runs away from home because they don’t like the way the parents treat them. The boy named Tar is constantly abused by his father and neglected by his mother. Both of his parents are alcoholics. The girl Gemma has two good parents that spoils her but oneday she gets into an argument with her parents when she decides to stay out late with her boyfriend Tar on his last night in town which leads to her stealing her fathers money and runs away with her boyfriend Tar. I think every school should read this book it shows you how real life events occur in normal people life. It shows how one mistake could change your life. I rate this book five out of five. I liked the style of this book on how the events falls smoothly together and how it placed so you could easily understand the situations that taking place In the book. My favorite character in the book. My favorite character in the book was Tar because he was able to escape from his parent get off of heroin and change his life around. My least favorite character is Gemma shes still immature. She influenced Tar into taking heroin, she got him arrested, and when he finally comes home she doesn’t want him to touch her and is not sure that her new born child is his.