Jagged Little Pill

The Hit - Melvin Burgess
One week was time enough to do everything in the world so long as you lived hard enough, fierce enough, young enough, true enough. The rest of it was just waiting to die.

And the moral of the story is:

I think.

Had this ended differently it would have been a 3. Had this ended differently and owned up as a parody, I may have given it a reluctant 4. But since it did neither and just epically failed in the delivery of a message with a massive potential for philosophical depth and introspection, I’m just leaving it at a chortling 2.

Manchester is burning. With the growing discontent towards society’s status quo, the growing margin between the rich and the poor and the masses’ loss of hope for the future, people are taking to the streets, staging violent protests, starting riots and planting the early seeds of a revolution. In the middle of all of this is the underground group called The Zealots and Death, a pill that promises the biggest high there was, a week before it claims your life. The Zealots have found a way to manufacture the expensive and obscure pill on their own and has been giving them out for free in the protest rallies fuelling the growing insurrection with drugged out teenagers, hell bent on experiencing life to its fullest in their last weeks.

Adam is a loser. He’s a mediocre football player rejected from Manchester U and City; his poor family treats him as a mediocre son compared to his brilliant older brother Jess; he’s a mediocre boyfriend for his rich and beautiful girlfriend, Lizzie who he loves very much.

I love you. What did it mean? It meant: I want to spend my life with you. I want you to give me your life. Please love me back.

Which I found really fascinating because I haven’t read about a gold-digging, loser as hero before.

When a letter arrives at home claiming his brother Jess was a Zealot member and has died in one of the violent protest rallies, Adam’s life goes on a tailspin. With the loss of Jess’ contribution to the household finances, his parents are going to pull him from school and send him on to find a paying job. Adam refuses to accept this fate and sets off to find his brother. In his search he comes across a bunch of Death pills and as an act of supreme turdness and desperation-induced idiocy, took one. He then makes a bucket list of sorts and persuades the equally idiotic Lizzie to join him in his one-week of living life to the fullest, burning out than fading away.

I think Kurt Cobain turned on his grave just about now.

I had a tough time embracing the idea of a revolution seeking for change using a drug that puts an end to a person’s future. If I was a discontented person who protests to change society’s current status quo I don’t think my impulse choice will be to take a drug that will prevent me from seeing that change. The story relies heavily on the premise of teenagers as stupid lemmings who will make this choice because of their inherent selfishness and shallow philosophy. 

It’s finally, finally dawning on people how bad things really are, that so many kids are prepared to off themselves just so they can have one crazy week.

Half the time it felt like I’m being encouraged to laugh at the teenagers and their naiveté. And while I have to admit Adam’s moronic bucket list and Lizzie’s misguided stupidity was quite funny, I felt the spirit of it all was mean and awful leaving me feeling wretched afterwards.

”Kill someone?” she exclaimed. “You want to leave me with a murder charge?”
“No!” Adam shook his head. “OK, I hadn’t thought it through, I mean, only if it was someone who really, really deserved it. Hitler or someone.”
“Hitler’s dead, Adam. We’re not going to meet Hitler.”

I’m quite confused what exactly the Death Pill does. I thought it was going to be along the lines of that drug in Limitless except you die after a week but the book just cryptically describes it as enhancing you - mentally, physically and sexually. Lizzie begs to differ on the sexually department and t beg to differ on the mentally aspect. Physically is up for debate because Adam and Lizzie managed to rob a liquor store WITHOUT CARRYING ANY WEAPON. What’s more weird was it wasn’t made out to look as though Adam was oozing with threat and danger out of his pores that everyone just cowered in fear. There was just a lot of scared shouting, really. At best the pill seems to improve your skin texture enough to charm your stupid, rich girlfriend to finance your bucket list.

Initially, I thought writing Adam and Lizzie as outstandingly terrible protagonists, independent of each other and as a couple, was clever. I was hoping for the worst for either of them all throughout. Without the pill, Adam was already a prime grade, freeloading asshole of a boyfriend trying to scheme his way into Lizzie’s comfortable lifestyle. With the pill, he became a self-centred, selfish asshat who guilts Lizzie into committing ridiculous acts of “living life to the extreme” in the last week of his life. The fact that Lizzie agrees to doing this with him, playing the part of the sheltered princess who delights in chaos and living vicariously through Adam was just icing on their clusterfuck of a cake. I was torn between being appalled and laughing in disbelief over her massive levels of heroic stupidity as she attempts to find an antidote for her “beloved” Adam (who doesn’t want it at that point by the way) by approaching an insane gangster in exchange for sex.

It was the old story. Boys went to the rescue with a gun in their hands, girls with their knickers in their pockets. This way, she thought, at least no one was going to get hurt…

…He tutted irritably and came in again for another kiss, same as last time, full of wet tongue - a nasty porn kiss, she realised. But what had she expected? Romance? She had agreed to be porn for him.

I can’t look even look at that without giggling uncontrollably.

I did like two things about this book: Jess’ dressing down of Adam calling him out on his slacker mentality (that was GLORIOUS) and Christian. 

Christian is the 45-year old son of Ballantine, the gangster who controls the sales and distribution of The Death Pill before The Zealots learned to manufacture it on their own. He likes to wear baggy jeans, a baseball cap and shirts with naked girls printed on them. Oh and he has a skateboard. And a bodyguard slash nanny who makes sure he takes his anti-psychotic milk. He’s the guy Lizzie agrees to be porn for and by God, THAT was a majestic villain. He has this nasty habit of turning his enemies into para or quadriplegics by severing their spinal cord. 

And yes, he’s certifiably insane but I took joy from his horrifying ways in exacting pain to these dreadful characters. He was such a Joffrey to Lizzie’s Sansa Stark and Vince’s Sandor Clegane (for the record, I love Sansa, I am only approximating Christian’s torture of Lizzie.) He’s probably the only reason I stuck around and finished this nastiness because I really wanted him to triumph over this bizarrely entertaining yet catastrophic bullshit fest.

This is my first read from this author and I’ve heard great things about his other book. I found the writing in The Hit adequate, the humour, be it intended or not, was blatant. I just wished it ended there and ditched the bigger message and left the preaching of the tired adage of “carpe diem” to those who can execute it better.

ARC provided by Chicken House Scholastic thru Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased and honest review. Quotes may not appear on the final edition.