Smack Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Smack

Two teens escape their oppressive homes to live with anarchist squatters, only to become entrenched in heroin addiction and crime. "Smack" is about two youths who leave their homes to search for a better life, only to wind up squatting in abandoned houses and struggling with heroin addiction. Tar and Gemma are discontent with their home lives; Tar's father is abusive while Gemma feels bored and encumbered by her parents' rules. Tar escapes from his household and since Gemma likes him, she decides to go with him. While trying to find living accommodations in Bristol, a tobacconist (Skolly) introduces Tar to Richard, an anarchist whom welcomes him to squat with his friends. When Richard and his fellow anarchist friends (Vonny and Jerry) finally meet Gemma, they are concerned by the fact that she is only 14 years old and making poor life decisions. Richard then introduces Gemma and Tar to Lily and Rob (Lily's boyfriend). Gemma was especially captivated by Lily's charisma, which is why she and Tar decided to spend the night at their place. Once there, Lily and Rob offered them heroin, which they smoked under the pretense that smoking it wouldn't hook them. When the young couple eventually moves in with Lily and Rob, all of them descend deeper into the depths of addiction, including Sally, a girl who just recently started living with them. Lily finds out that she is pregnant, inciting all of them to move to the countryside. They all vowed to abstain from heroin, but that pact disintegrates after only a day. The girls take up prostitution in a massage parlor and Tar gets arrested, landing him in a rehabilitation program. After he completes the program, he claims that he is clean, but upon moving back in with his squatter friends, he starts using again. Shortly thereafter, the police discover Tar and Gemma's illicit drug possession and Tar vouches that the heroin is his in order to ensure that Gemma doesn't go to jail. Gemma also discovers that she is pregnant with Tar's baby while Lily cannot ascertain whether her baby-to-be is Richard's child or not. Lily continues to use heroin throughout the duration of her pregnancy as well as when she is breastfeeding; her son, Sunny, is brought into the world as an addict and Gemma claims that you can tell that he is on dope. Horrified, she discontinues her heroin usage and admits herself into a hospital. After the police raid their house, Robert, Lily, and Sunny are all sent to rehabilitation programs. Vonny reaches out to Gemma's parents whom invite her to move back in and raise the baby in their presence. In time, Gemma achieves sobriety, has the baby (named Oona), and falls out of love with Tar because although he's been released, she has little faith in his ability to stay sober. Tar proceeds to date another girl and sporadically visit his daughter, nowhere near as involved as Gemma is with her upbringing.
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Best part of story, including ending: I loved how this story didn't preach the horrors of heroin addiction, but also refrained from glamorizing it. I also liked how unique but relatable the characters are. Despite their general outlandishness and self-centered traits, they all have individual, enchanting, idealistic personalities that allude to why they turned to anarchism and escapism in the first place. When I read their accounts, I feel like I'm hanging out in their squat with them.

Best scene in story: My favorite scenes involve depictions of anarchist culture and life, such as how they go about pursuing the rebellion against societal and capitalist restraints (apart from heroin, of course). For instance, I love how they did what Richard refers to as "lock-outs." In costume, the crew ventures out into the night and superglue the keyholes of bank doors. They did it with the intention that the banks would be forced into delay their openings, all for the sake of giving the workers a break or, ideally, a whole day off. I feel as though this instance truly encapsulates the spirit of the anarchist movement in Britain.

Opinion about the main character: I don't like how Gemma is initially bratty, naive, and selfish, especially toward Tar, a sweet-natured boy whom adores her more than she adores him. It's a shame to see a sweetheart like Tar suffer from incessant abuse and resort to addiction in order to cope with his psychological wounds.

The review of this Book prepared by Ghia Vitale a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Smack

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999 Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   high school Wild kid(s)?    -   druggie culture (& crime)

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   unemployed Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   British Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally ill


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing    -   touching of anatomy    -   licking    -   impregnation/reproduction    -   actual description of hetero sex    -   Boob talk!    -   Vagia talk! Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Melvin Burgess Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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