04 December, 2015

#BookReview :: Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe

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, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 as long as they can remember. They're not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet, watchful 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 ...

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Concentr8 welcomes its readers to a world set in distant future where most kids are on medication for ADD. The medication was welcomed willingly as it seemed to offer some relief to not only those who suffered from ADD but also to those around them. But then chaos breaks loose bringing riots to the city. And amongst all the chaos are five kids who have held a seemingly random man hostage. Troy, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze are five kids who have been on Concentr8 from the time they could remember. Why did they kidnap someone off the streets? And why are they holding him hostage? What is going on in the city to bring these kids, a journalist, a negotiator and the mayor together? 

The concept of the book attracted me immediately. It is not very common to get a chance to get into the minds of such oddball characters – and I mean oddballs in a good way. We are so used to larger than life characters, the next door teenagers kind of characters play the lead roles in the books that it is often a refreshing change to read about different kind of characters. Told from multiple points of view, the story provides its readers with a complete sense of the plot. The author has done a great job of setting up the plot and then following it through till the end. The plot makes you question a lot of things and unfortunately does not provide any answers to them, leaving it up to the readers to decide.

However, I have to admit that the narration and characterization in the book was the most confusing thing ever. The author, in order to add to the authenticity of the characters, has given different voices to his characters and narrated the story in a way so as to stay true to its characters who suffer from ADD. As a result the narration can be difficult to follow and to warm up to. After all, one cannot expect people with ADD to be able to narrate coherently or with perfect grammar or without losing track. So, while on one hand the characters and their narration made it very difficult for me to read, on the other hand I marveled at the author’s ingenuity in deciding to tell the story in such a way. It is the biggest advantage and also the biggest disadvantage of the book.

In the end, while it was a really difficult book to complete, I appreciate the author’s endeavor to come up with something different more. I would recommend this book to readers who are always up for something different – no matter how daunting and at the same time suggest to pick this up at your own discretion.

Review Copy received from Bloomsbury India

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