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by Melvin Burgess

Published by U.S. edition: Henry Holt, 1998
327 pages
ISBN: 0-8050-5801-X

Ages 13 - 17

Tar and Gemma are seemingly typical suburban teenagers, living on the outskirts of London, who decide to run away from home together so that Tar can escape his abusive father. Both feel that the adult world has failed them. In the nearby town of Bristol, they find a number of other young runaways, dropouts, and assorted cast-offs, living in abandoned buildings. Tar and Gemma are quickly accepted into this makeshift community of survivors who eke out a living by collecting public assistance, supplemented by shoplifting and prostitution. Like many of their peers, they are soon seduced by heroin and hooked into a marginal existence where they continually flirt with self-destruction. Their story, told from multiple first-person points of view, shows the the internal and external contrasts between two distinctive individuals who have made the same dead-end choice. Although the voice is fairly consistent throughout, the multiple viewpoints allow us to see Tar and Gemma develop fully as characters, with an amazingly non-judgmental tone on the part of the author. Originally published in 1996 with the title Junk, this ground-breaking young adult novel won the 1997 Carnegie and Guardian Awards in Great Britain. CCBC categories: Fiction for Teenagers (KTH; June 26)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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