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…
This is a book about what 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 Malorie Blackman and Patrick Ness.
Thoughts before you started reading Concentr8?
CHRISSI: I was excited to read Concentr8. I received a copy from Bloomsbury via NetGalley. I was immediately intrigued by the concept and thought it sounded incredibly intriguing.
LUNA: When I heard first about Concentr8 I was intrigued. Bloomsbury was kind enough to send me a copy for review (thank you!) and I read the book within a week of receiving it.
So was Concentr8 what you expected?
CHRISSI: No. I thought it was going to be much more about focusing on the main group of teenagers and how they dealt with their ADD. I thought this would be a really powerful read, however, it didn’t capture my attention or make me think like I wanted it to.
LUNA: Initially I thought the story would of a central main character or maybe just focus on the group. Instead the story has multiple points of narration. As such I felt there was little emotional connection for the reader, which makes it harder to care about what it happening.
I had a bystander-reading-attitude during Concentr8, because I wanted to see how this story would be resolved but I wasn’t emotionally involved.
The blurb on Bloomsbury’s website says: “This is a book about what how we label children. It’s about how kids get lost and failed by the system. It’s about how politicians manipulate them.” Yes I’d agree with that but for me I think having a connection to the character(s) in the story would have a much bigger impact. Having now gone to check the other reviews, I don’t think I’m the only one. :(
CHRISSI: Concentr8 is an intriguing idea for a story. I was pleasantly surprised that the book was informative at the beginning of the chapters. Concentr8 has short, snappy chapters so it was easy to get through.
LUNA: I thought the information at the beginning of the different chapters of interesting. It gave a very brief overview of the rise in ADHD diagnosis.
CHRISSI: The amount I disconnected from the story. I didn’t care for any of the characters. I felt the story was a bit muddled with its narration and thus left me feeling disconnected. I read, but didn’t really invest in the character’s stories. Unfortunately, this completely affected my enjoyment of the story. :-(
LUNA: This is sort of two-fold. Firstly I’ve already mentioned the multiple points of view in which the story is narrated. You have all the four teens, the kidnap victim, a reporter, the negotiator and the major (think that’s everyone). My proof copy was 250 pages, strangely this felt long. With some of the characters I struggled to tell who was who.
Secondly (and I stress this is my interpretation) I came away with the message of “all drugs are bad”. Now for the plot in this book and what was done in regards to the drugs ‘concentr8’ I would agree. I’d need to do a lot more research on ADHD before I’d be able to comment on the whole. However as someone who has a chronic illness and needs to take pain medication daily I was left feeling like there was a judgement there.
CHRISSI: As I’ve mentioned before, my favourite part of the story was the informative element at the beginning of the chapters. I was surprised that this is what I enjoyed the most out of the story. I would love to say I had a favourite character, but unfortunately none stood out for me.
LUNA: I liked the reporter. I think she was the reason I continued with the book. William Sutcliffe uses her as the first adult character to see beyond the trouble-maker label for the teen characters and to dig deeper into the contenr8 drug.
Would you recommend it?
CHRISSI: It’s not a book that I would personally read again, but I do think some readers out there may enjoy it. The concept is interesting, but it didn’t work well for me.
LUNA: Not sure. I do want to applaud what I think Concentr8 is trying to do but for me it didn’t work. Maybe for other readers it will.