The Hit by Melvin Burgess

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The Hit by Melvin Burgess

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The best drug in the world but you die after a week? Brilliant concept and full of interesting ideas but characterisation is quite flat, people make odd and inconsistent decisions and the whole thing feels a bit rushed. Nevertheless, a thought-provoking read with plenty of discussion to be had after.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Chicken House
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 190843533X

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Manchester. About thirty years from now. Hardly anyone has a job that pays enough to live on. Life is mean and limited for most people. And then a rock star gives his final concert. Jimmy Earles dies on stage after taking Death, a new drug that gives the ultimate high at an equally high price - it kills you after seven days and there is no antidote.

Adam is tempted. His life sucks. His brother has gone. His mother is worn out with drudgery, his father an embittered cripple. And his girlfriend doesn't want to know. Why not take Death? Surely seven days of bliss is a better prospect than the dull, pointless life stretching out in front of him?

But there's a lot Adam doesn't know about Death. And about life too. Will he find out in time?

Ok. I love Melvin Burgess, particularly because he is always prepared to give anything a go and never holds back. And I love the concept of The Hit. The best drug in the world kills you after a week. Wow! In a near-future world of endless recession and a growing, hopeless underclass, you can see how Death would appeal. And this setting allows readers to explore all sorts of issues - death, sex, drugs, work, the future for disenfranchised, anomic youth. I was really looking forward to reading this book. And I did enjoy it. But not quite as much as I had hoped.

It feels a little bit thrown together. I think this is a consequence of the ideas, structure and characters coming from other people and Burgess putting it all together. I'm all for collaboration and I admire the intent behind The Hit, but it isn't seamless. It's very difficult to like the central character, Adam, who takes teen sulkiness, self-obsession and lack of impulse control to an almost unbelievable level. I know he's taken a drug that causes mood swings, but he was like that from the get-go. To get really into the story, I needed to be rooting for Adam, but I was more inclined to wish his seven days to be up already, he was so annoying.

But there are plenty of good things. The main villain, Christian, is just deliciously revolting. I loved him. I enjoyed the thriller side of the plot and although I did catch one of the twists, most passed me by until they slapped me in the face. I also liked the picture of a rather miserable near future, which is painted in broad but vivid strokes. And the whole thing threw up all sorts of interesting questions about what makes life worth living. Sex? Love? Consumption? Or is it all about longevity?

I think The Hit is a flawed book, but truly, truly worth reading.

I think you might also enjoy Siege by Sarah Mussi, a tense, shocking and very affecting story of a school shooting and siege set in a dystopian near future.

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Buy The Hit by Melvin Burgess at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hit by Melvin Burgess at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Hit by Melvin Burgess at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hit by Melvin Burgess at


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