Life affirming. That’s what The Hit is. And trying to kill yourself. You hear about this; how it’s only when you’re about to die that the importance of life hits you.
At first the concept of this new book by Melvin Burgess put me off. Like many of Melvin’s topics tend to do, before you get stuck into the book.
The Hit is set in a future Manchester, at a time when our ‘bad things’ have got much much worse. Only the very rich have proper lives. Or so it seems. If you are ordinary you work hard at staying alive. But then this new pill turns up. If you take it you will die, exactly one week later. But during that week you will feel things so much more, so much better, that for many it seems the way to go.
17-year-old Adam is poor, and his girlfriend Lizzie is rich. They talk about this new drug, and discuss what they’d do if they took it. Because – of course – they will not take it. Except, things have a way of happening, and before long they have lost control of what they do.
Adam has the typical list of a dying teenager; sex, more sex, violence, money, fast cars. That kind of thing. And into this personal problem of whether you live or die, come the street riots, where people are showing the government just how unhappy they are about the state of affairs. And, there are the crooks who produce the drug that kills.
I am too old and sensible to be able to identify with Lizzie and Adam, but I can see how young readers would. The fact that life is much like it is today, but worse, and the fact that they play out this final scenario in the familiar streets of Manchester, makes it so much more real.
It’s not scary, so much as you despair because Adam is such a fool. But that’s a teen thing. I guessed how it must end, but you just can’t be sure. Exciting, and satisfying.
Melvin Burgess knows his teenagers better than most. Perhaps he still is one, deep down.