The time-travelling bookworm: ‘Junk’ by Melvin Burgess

This controversial YA novel about heroin addiction won the Carnegie Medal. Now considered a trailblazer, it was published in 1996 by Andersen Press. The American title is Smack. I remember seeing the edgy cover when browsing the teen section of the bookshop. It showed a syringe with a dandelion at the tip of it. The significance of the dandelion isn’t obvious unless you read the book. I first read it in 2002. It would have been from the library. When I re-read it in 2016, I was impressed with the realism and boldness of the writing.

I can see why the story would divide opinion. It might give impressionable readers some unwise ideas. On the other hand, they should be able to read fiction which reflects their interests and behaviours. Junk also serves as a warning against trying heroin. By the time I first read it, drugs awareness was increasing in secondary schools in the UK, following the highly publicised death of 21-year-old Rachel Whitear.

Catch up on previous posts in this series: Wuthering Heights, Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, Not Dressed Like That, You Don’t.

7 thoughts on “The time-travelling bookworm: ‘Junk’ by Melvin Burgess”

    1. It’s worth reading, doesn’t seem that dated as many other books for teens do, the characters aren’t likeable though.

    1. That’s interesting 🙂 Was it a module on children’s literature? Melvin Burgess books always have a controversial element, I’ve read a few of them.

      1. Yes it was, it had quite a range of texts, this was one that I hadn’t heard of before. It’s the only title by him that I’ve read. I’d be interested to reread it actually, I find there’s often a difference when reading a book for pleasure rather than with the thought of writing an essay in mind 😊 are there any others by him that you would particularly recommend?

        1. I used to really like Bloodtide (a Viking saga updated for dystopian future) but the last time I read it, didn’t appeal to me any more. I think Junk is probably the most impactful one I’ve read but I wouldn’t seek out his books now.

          1. Thanks, perhaps I’m best off starting with a reread of Junk and going from there. Thanks for reminding me of this one, it’s amazing how many books I completely forget about after reading them once!

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