Review: The Hit by Melvin Burgess

The Hit - Melvin Burgess

 Wow ..... What a load of crap! I'm feeling in a generous mood so I reluctantly award two stars.


The Hit was bad. It read almost like a kids creative writing project: "This happened, and then this happened and then Adam went there and that happened." Lame! The writing style was incredibly unrefined. The description was basic at best, and nonsensical at worst - some of the similes were just plain dumb. For example - "It roared quietly, like a wave of double cream breaking on fine gravel." What?!! What is that? "He'd thought they were in love, and she had betrayed him like a dog." Really? So she had betrayed him like an animal famed for it's loyalty? I mean, come on! At least try, Burgess!

The basic plot surrounds this new drug, Death which promises one entire week of ecstasy, the greatest high imaginable, but also demands users pay the highest price - death. Adam is caught in the middle of a revolution taking place, for some reason, in Manchester. A bunch of stuff happens and there's some drug dealers involved and this girl Lizzie is running about, crying. I don't know ..... I severely lost interest due to the fact that as a whole, the thing was violently boring. The writing was so flat and uninspiring that I even yawned my way through the violent, action scenes. It was just dull.


There was no sparkle, there was no flair, there was no wit. It just descended, rather rapidly into a rather sophisticated list of events. I say rather sophisticated as Burgess did not go so far as to begin using headings and bullet points, though he might as well have - there was little enough depth and interesting material in there to warrant it ..... Somehow he managed to create a story and a cast of characters so flat that you could almost call it skilful.


I think a big mistake he made was trying to incorporate a message. He was trying to get across to readers the importance of life, living in the moment, valuing what we've got. But it all got terribly diluted, what with all the severing of spinal cords, chugging of champagne and leaping out of windows that it kind of appeared to be tacked onto the end when Jess explains the " master plan" of the Zealots. And by this point I really couldn't give a fuck. It just made it feel try hard, and even less genuine. It discredited the story even further. I mean, if you are going to write a cheap, easy-read action novel just write it. Don't try and dress it up as some deep, philosophical, valuable literature by scribbling a speech into one of the characters dialog right at the end, whereby he attempts to enlighten the other characters and the reader in a ridiculously patronising, but ultimately meaningless way. Please! If you're going to write crap just be honest about it and write crap. We all understand. After all, an author's gotta eat, same as the rest of us.


One of the other things that bothered me deeply is the way everyone is praising the idea but ripping the execution to shreds. I'm not criticising others for enjoying the premise, not at all. I think the premise is good. It's why I bought the damn thing in the first place. No, what bothers me about this is that this would be giving credit where credit is not due. The premise for this book was not Burgess' idea. In the acknowledgments he is quite happy to let us know that the idea of a drug with gives you an unbelievable high for a week, followed by death was dreamt up by a bunch of A-level psychology students and their tutor. He states that some of settings and most of the characters also started somewhere else, outside of his head. So, now we know that he is as incapable of imagining a good and original story line as he is of actually putting pen to paper and writing the thing. Huh .....


Maybe I'm being a little hard on Melvin Burgess. He did, after all write Junk, which I love. But I guess that's why I'm so disappointed in The Hit. I expected a similar punchy writing style, hard hitting plot and lively cast of characters.


I certainly shouldn't have gotten my hopes up about the characters. They were all awful. Especially Adam, the little jerk! He was the worst excuse for a "hero" that I have read in a long time. There was no substance to him! He was as flat as the page he was written on. It's very difficult to connect to a selfish fool. Which Adam was very good at being. I'm not sure that Burgess has ever met a teenager and if he has I'm worried about them - real people do not behave like Adam does! He makes wild assumptions, constantly reacts without a moments thought and has not one care for anyone. I really didn't believe in his lurve for Lizzie. He was too selfish to love anyone but himself. Why did he even take the drug in the first place?! For some reason he stole the pills from some guys house, which resulted in the poor bloke being brutally murdered by vicious, drug dealing gangsters, and then seemed to be lounging around on his bed one moment and then all of a sudden swallowing a pill marked with a skull the next ..... It was all very strange. There was one sentence of Adam mourning the end of his "relationship" with Lizzie, but we were never let in on his thought process surrounding this defining event, the turning point of the book. You'd think there'd be a bit more drama and explanation during such a vital scene. We are talking, basically about Adam's suicide here as he is well aware that Death means death.

There are so many situations like this throughout the book! Adam just seems not to care, he seems to be functioning almost on auto-pilot. He doesn't appear to give a crap when his brother apparently dies, there's no feeling about the fate of his parents or Lizzie's cousin, Julie (who, following her violent beating, we never hear about again. Is she dead then, or what?!) He goes on and on about how noble it is to rescue Lizzie from her kidnapper and how it proves his love for her. But, to be honest, it just seems phony. There's no emotion behind his actions, there's no passion or drive. He's just going through the motions. He's so deeply unlikeable and only became more so as the story progressed as there's absolutely zero character development going on. Urgh. It was just really painful to read about him getting into one pointless scrape after another.


And Lizzie ain't much better ..... She's so mind numbingly stupid she had me cringing. She has no compassion! She just watches Adam being hauled from the bus by police officers after they robbed the convenience store together. She doesn't stick up for him, she doesn't admit she was a part of the whole debacle to shift the focus from him. No, she just sits there and stares out the window, allowing some other poor, innocent kid to be arrested in her place in a case of mistaken identity. What a bitch! She then goes on to simply rock up at the door of the creepy, clearly unhinged guy she met at her cousins party and offers to sleep with him which results in her kidnapping. What the hell was the chick thinking?! She's such a shockingly poor judge of character if she couldn't tell that Christian was trouble the moment he started perving over her at that house party. She's got to be as mental as he is if she imagined him to be in any way trustworthy. I just couldn't wrap my head around her decision to just mosey on down Crazy-Christian's driveway, intending to swap sex for a non-existent antidote to Death. Why would she go to this length for Adam? She seemed to readily accept his decision to take the suicide drug, and didn't even particularly like him so why, oh why did she feel the need to sell her body to help him?!


This is the crux of my problem with the plot of The Hit - the inconsistencies were too glaring to turn a blind eye to. It was just shoddy. Death is supposed to offer an incredible, intense week long high. But it kinda felt like this was dropped after a few chapters with no evidence of Adam experiencing any sort of altered consciousness or euphoria beyond maybe the first day and half after he took it. The idea was seemingly abandoned and we were left with just Adam, plain and dumb. Adam's bucket list was disgustingly shallow and pathetic. Please, he's supposed to be a teenager not a moron. And the way it all fell in to place by the end was nearly cartoon like. Except not amusing. Also, why was Adam not severely wounded when he leapt through a plate glass window?! Why?! Why could around a dozen people not manage to kill, or at least disarm Christian? The way he just kept coming back was ridiculous. I rolled my eyes so hard I almost lost them inside my head.

There were so many more, but I feel like I've wasted enough of my time on this garbage. The only reason I'm giving it two stars is because I liked the idea (although it's not entirely belonging to the author .....) and the cover on my copy is sort of cool. That's it! Nothing else! The rest was just Junk!