Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 19th, 2016
In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADD. Soon every troubled teen is on it. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Keep the undesirable elements in line. Keep people like us safe from people like them. What’s good for society is good for everyone. Troy, Demi, Lee, Karen, and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 for as long as they can remember. They’re not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet, thoughtful sidekick–the only one Blaze really trusts. They’re not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it. What makes five kids pick a man seemingly at random–a nobody, he works in the housing department, doesn’t even have a good phone–hold a knife to his side, take him to a warehouse and chain him to a radiator? They’ve got a hostage, but don’t really know what they want, or why they’ve done it. And across the course of five tense days, with a journalist, a floppy-haired mayor, a police negotiator, and the sinister face of the pharmaceutical industry, they–and we– begin to understand why…This is a book about how we label children. It’s about how kids get lost and failed by the system. It’s about how politicians manipulate them. Gripping and controversial reading for fans of Marjorie Blackman and Patrick Ness.
When I was in college I wrote a paper for one of my psychology classes on how well drugs like Adderall and Ritalin really worked on kids, if the side effects were worth it, and was it being over-prescribed. So, when I saw Concentr8 offered on NetGalley my interest was immediately piqued. I regretfully have to say that while the book is based on an interesting and timely premise, I had to force myself to finish it and I honestly don’t think this will appeal to teens or adults.
The biggest problem is the way the chapters are written. They’re all told in the first person by the teens, their captive, the negotiator, the mayor and a journalist who is covering the story. There were way too many viewpoints and it made it impossible to emphasize with any of the characters. You’re never with any of them long enough to become emotionally invested. In addition, the kids all sound alike and I found myself frequently going back to the beginning of a chapter to remind myself whose narrative I was actually reading. Making matters worse is the lack of punctuation which was so prevalent that it distracted from the story. There also seemed to be missing words at the ends of sentences which made things even more disjointed and confusing. The characters themselves, except for the captive and the journalist, are so one-dimensional and unlikable that they’re caricatures of the people they’re supposed to represent. And finally, at the beginning of each chapter are short passages from actual scholarly articles and books, which I found interesting, but I can’t see teens feeling the same. To be perfectly honest, by the time I slogged through the story, I found myself wondering if anyone had bothered to edit it.
I debated whether to give this 1 or 2 stars. I’ve gone with the higher rating because I did find the premise intriguing. At just over 250 pages it’s a fairly short read and the chapters themselves are quite brief. It’s supposed to be set sometime in the near future, but there aren’t really any science fiction elements in it. There also aren’t many YA books out there on this topic, and it does lend itself to some much needed discussion about this subject. Ultimately though, Concentr8 just wasn’t for me.