The Hit, by Melvin Burgess (2013)

Genre: Grit Lit
Appeal: 16-21
The HitFans of Guy Ritchie films (Snatch, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) and Burgess’ prior work (Doing It and Junk, aka Smack) must be the target market for this gritty, dystopian novel, because it sure wasn’t for me. I like grit lit but this one pushed past my limits of tolerance. It’s not particularly offensive; it’s just exhausting. A new street drug called Death is attracting attention – it gives you an incredible high that lasts a week, a single glorious week in which you feel empowered and capable of anything, a week in which to live life to the absolute fullest. And then you die. The drug binds to the brain and it’s fatal. Rock stars are taking it, creating astonishingly shallow bucket lists, and their fans follow suit. Adam is sorely tempted. He’s 17, poor in a future world where the income gap has widened as a decades-long recession continues, and has just been cut from trials for the Manchester United soccer team.He has pinned all his hopes on soccer, and the dream has just died. When his brother Jess disappears, followed by a letter notifying the family he died for the anti-government activists the Zealots, his future looks bleak indeed. He’s poor, and he is in lust with a very rich girl, who agrees to sleep with him because, why not. I got to just past the halfway mark, and skipped to the last 20 pages, something I almost never do. There I discovered Burgess was asked to write the book based on an idea from a group of philosophy students, mixing in issues of income disparity, greedy capitalism, street drugs and gang violence. Oh, I forgot to mention the insanely violent bad guys in this novel. The problem with this novel is that the yelling never stops. It’s also really misogynist – the few female characters are there for sex and sacrifice. As in most YA novels, adults are either ineffective (Adam’s dad is literally disabled, and his mother works nights and so sleeps all day) or The Problem (capitalists, inadequate cops, and silent politicians, not to mention the ultra-violent and psycho bad guy). Most disappointing to me is that there’s no sense of any honest, quiet, thoughtful discussion, even among the Zealots. No gentleness, no true joy – I don’t count drug-induced euphoria. (Unless it was in those 125 pages or so that I skipped.) It’s not gritty, it’s merely discouraging. The ending was disappointing as well, and the characters were flat and more self-centred than I could stand. Too bad. There was potential for a provocative commentary on social inequality and violence, but it just seems voyeuristic, taking pleasure in the very things it’s trying to criticize.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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