Melvin Burgess

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Winner of the 1996 Carnegie Medal in Literature and the Guardian Prize for fiction, two of England's most prestigious awards, Smack tells a penetrating story about heroin use, a topic that is becoming familiar in the news and one of importance to teens everywhere.

The story begins with Tar, a fourteen-year-old, who runs away from home. He convinces his girlfriend, Gemma, to come with him, and it is not long before they are engulfed in a loose community of people living in abandoned buildings. Everything seems to be turning out so well: they have a roof over their heads, food to eat, and a brand-new group of friends. And when Tar and Gemma try their first hit of smack, they think life will keep on getting better.

But before long, they find they've lost control. The search for the next hit becomes all-consuming--until a disaster forces Gemma to take matters into her own hands.

Insightful, haunting, and real, Smack is the Go Ask Alice of the '90s. It's a book that every teenager should read--then pass along to a friend.


Praise for Smack

A Carnegie Medal winner
A Guardian prize for Fiction
A Publishers Weekly "Best Children's Books of the Year"
A School Library Journal "Best Book"
Borders Books and Music "Original Voices" pick
An American Library Association "Best Books for Young Adults"
A New York Public Library "Books for the Teen Age" list pick

"Cuts to the bone. . . . This harrowing tale is as compellingly real as it is tragic." --Kirkus Reviews, starred

"This is one novel that will leave an indelible impression on all who read it."--Publishers Weekly, starred

"The book is powerful and calculated, intent on affecting readers and shattering pat illusions. . . . [B]rutally honest." --School Library Journal, starred

"Smack is filled with cool British lingo and interesting characters, all the while subtly delivering a harrowing message about addiction." --Seventeen

"[A] boot-in-the-gut look at British kids on the dole and drugs." --Toronto Globe & Mail

"[A] gritty, no punches-pulled chronicle." --News and Observer, Raleigh, NC

"Grim and cautionary novel" --New York Times Book Review

"Smack pulls no punches: Drugs can be fun. And Smack makes it relentlessly clear that fun comes at a vicious price. . . . It will leave you reeling." --Denver Post

"It does exactly what teenagers want a book to do. It tells the truth. It doesn't preach, It makes you think. . . .Smack is as addictive as the drug it profiles. You will not be able to put it down." --Voice of Youth Advocates

1"[A]n honest, unpatronizing, unvarnished account of teen life on the skids." --Booklist

"The book sticks with you." --Seattle Post Intelligencier

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Melvin Burgess

  • Melvin Burgess is the author of several other highly acclaimed books for young adults, including Burning Issy. Mr. Burgess lives in Lancashire, England.
  • Melvin Burgess
    Melvin Burgess


Available Formats and Book Details


Melvin Burgess

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, Carnegie Medal, Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, NYPL Books for the Teen Age