Welcome to our Anniversary Blog by resident blogger Jake Hope. Jake will be reading and reviewing all of the past CILIP Carnegie Medal winning books during the anniversary year. We are also asking shadowers to "Adopt a Book" and join in reading and discussing the anniversary titles in their shadowing groups.

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"Sometimes I feel like I'm some kind of organ plucked out of a living beast. Every little twitch shows up; it's like having to confess all the time. I can make my face go ever so still if I want to but then I forget and it starts twitching away and everyone knows exactly what I;'m feeling every second."


Carnegie winner: 1996
Author: Melvin Burgess

Having suffered abuse and suppression at the hands of his alcoholic father, Tar contrive to run away to Bristol where he is introduced to Richard, an anarchist who, together with friends Vonny and Jerry, break into an abandoned house to set up a squat.    Despite the reluctance of Vonny and Jerry, Tar is later joined by his girlfriend Gemma.  The two of them begin an impulsive, free-spirited existence, exploring artistic expression and recreational drug use, the latter spiralling out of control and into a descent from which the pair find it difficult to escape.

There is a strong sense of community and comradeship in the squat, but also a chilling case in which repercussions for impetuous decisions are sadly not considered.  First love is touchingly recounted, but even this has an aftermath that will affect the couple.  The writing is gritty, realistic and completely uncompromising, factors which caused some controversy upon the book’s publication and its subsequent winning of the CILIP Carnegie medal.  Some of the scenes are harrowing and the characters and their fates are likely to indelibly affect readers.

Told via multiple first person narration, the story is direct, engaging and highly poignant.  Part love story, part tragedy, it offers a sickening account of potential and possibility through the substitution of parental control for the lack of agency that drugs can lead to.

A lyrical quality to the potential and growing freedom of late adolescence, makes the eventual decline that Gemma and Tar’s relationship descends into all the more potent. The writing is scalpel sharp and succeeds in avoiding didacticism whilst shocking with its overall and lasting impact.


addiction / druggies / homeless / runaways / teenage pregnancy /