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Book Review: The Hit by Melvin Burgess

When you think edgy YA lit, certain names come to mind: Ellen Hopkins. Sherman Alexie. Patrick Ness. Ellen Hopkins.  Oh wait, did I say Ellen Hopkins twice?  There’s a reason for that.  But you probably also think Melvin Burgess.

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The Hit takes place in a world where the gap between the haves and the have nots is incredibly wide.  The world, well at least the country, is on the verge of revolution.  And for those who have nothing to live for, they can take a drug called DEATH.  Death promises you the most amazing week, but at the end of it you will die. Adam downs death before his girlfriend, Lizzie, can stop him, and we are in for one heart pounding week.

If you had one week to live, what would be on your bucket list? Not surprisingly, sex is on Adams.

Adam lives with his family: a mom that is tired to her core from working, a dad with a disability and on the dole, and a beloved brother who seems to have a golden future written in the stars.  Until his brother disappears.  Could he have been part of the protest movement? Surely not the golden child!

Lizzie is too good for Adam and he knows it, and yet there she is.  But even she can’t stop Adam from taking death.

This is an amazing book.  Action packed, thought provoking, and heartbreaking.  Burgess does an outstanding job of tapping into our current world fears and issues – particularly our current socioeconomic struggles and growing class wars – and creating a tale that is reflective without being preachy.  The plot twists and turns, the action ramps up in violent but fun ways, and the characters are flawed, imperfect, self-absorbed; in a word, realistic and believable.

This is one week readers will never forget.  Highly recommended for mature readers (remember, this is Burgess so there is sex and violence and language for those who need to know).  It received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly and VOYA (5Q, 5P). Michael Cart says, “the novel is viscerally exciting and emotionally engaging. Best of all, it is sure to excite both thoughtful analysis and heated discussion among its readers. A clear winner from Burgess.” (Booklist, 1/01/14)

From Scholastic Chicken House.  February 2014.  ISBN: 978-0-545-55699-6.