Book Reviews

Concentr8 – William Sutcliffe

You want to know how I got famous? This is how. 

Weren’t proper famous. Didn’t last more than a few days. Weren’t popular famous neither. I mean most famous is we-love-you famous or you-done-something-good famous- this was the opposite. For a few days me and Blaze was the official scumbags of the universe. But what I’m saying is – we ain’t. We ain’t and we weren’t. 

Taking a guy off the street and tying him to a radiator and keeping him sounds psycho but if you know me – if you knew my whole life what happened up to that day – you’d get it. I mean you probably still wouldn’t like me – so what that don’t mean nothing anyway – but you’d know I ain’t a nutter or evil or any of that other stuff what they said about me. 

I stand by the fact that I am incredibly lucky to have this blog. This novel is the yet to be released novel from Carnagie nominated author William Sutcliffe, and I’ve had an opportunity to read it. And let me just start off by telling you that this book is stunningly beautiful; but it’s beautiful in a way that you don’t expect it to be. I mean, in what way can five teens kidnapping a man and chaining him to a radiator be beautiful, I hear you ask. Well… let me tell you. 

The story of Concentr8 follows a lot of points of view, over the course of five days. It all however stems from the ever more present disorder known as ADHD. In this version of London that Sutcliffe has developed for the reader, Concentr8 was used to subdue a majority of the populous. However when we join the novel we are mid rioting and hysteria after the government decision to stop supplying this medication. This is where I feel the beauty of this story begins. We have this really cinematic moment of the five teens stood in a shopping centre watching a crowd of people looting, and it’s that moment where you can imagine a camera panning across faces, all slightly different. It has one of those very rare qualities where I found myself wanting it to be a BBC mini series, just so I could watch what was happening. 

Before we delve any deeper into this story, it only feels right to talk about our characters. There feels to be a very distinct hierarchy between the teens in the novel, although they all maintain they’re not a gang. Blaze feels very much like the leader of the group. He’s the instigator for the abduction essentially. He decides that they need to do something big, get peoples attention. And this is what he thinks will work. He comes across as very indifferent to a lot of things, always appearing very blank faced with no real expression and no real care as to what he’s doing. This changes toward the end as he realises the effect of his actions, but in the early stages of the novel it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly why he does what he does. There are also only a couple of chapters from his point of view, perhaps highlighting that we’re not really meant to understand Blaze as a character, which makes him feel rather like a real teenaged boy. 

After Blaze we have Troy. Troy is the one who opens and closes the novel. He’s Blaze’s ‘best friend’/right hand man and the only character who sticks by Blaze through it all. He is very much more open about he feels and definitely is one who looks at both sides of the argument, even being the one who communicates the most with the hostage. He appears to be aware of how the others all feel in the novel but is able to see beyond that to the greater good of what they are doing, despite knowing where they will all end up. 

Karen comes next in my mind. She’s the only girl of the group and is Blaze’s girlfriend. I feel like she’s used as a bit of a relief for Blaze. He’s so stressed and what not that they head up to the office frequently. They seem very close at the beginning of the novel, to the point of her egging him on to ‘get him’ (the hostage), but as the story progresses we see that she drifts further and further from him. She becomes more than happy to simply let him take what’s coming for him and try and get herself out of any major trouble that might come her way. She’s very loyal, until she’s likely to lose something from it. She’s also an object of Troy’s desires, although nothing comes of it. I would have liked to have seen the two of them together perhaps, maybe if she had thought Blaze to be worse for her earlier, if only to see a different side of Troy. 

Then at the bottom of this group are Lee and Femi, my personal favourite character. Lee is very much the sheep. He follows the group because he can’t think of anything better that he could be doing, getting himself into trouble and is often referred to as the thick one of the lot. He definitely does do some very stupid things which nearly hurt a lot of people, but then it’s easy to think that it’s stupid. I don’t personally suffer from ADHD so I don’t know how his mind works with regard to needing to release energy etc. 

Femi however is the character I relate to the most, hence why he’s my favourite. Femi is the only one who really comes to terms with what taking a hostage really means for their prospects. He knows that he’s wrong for being involved in the group and spends quite a lot of the novel trying to get out of the warehouse where they end up. There’s something about Femi’s gritty realistic attitude and how he talks about how upset his parents would be that really struck a chord with me and made me really feel for him. 

There are more characters than these that have points of view as well. There’s the mayor who bears a very funny resemblance to Boris Johnson in description, and has a very warped sense of what’s happening. There is a journalist trying to get the scoop for the newspaper about what is happening from inside of the warehouse, as well as uncovering some juicy gossip about Concentr8. In addition to both of these there is also comic relief in the unlikeliest of places; the negotiator, who seems very unhappy when people come to tell him how to do his job. 

But despite having to search through all of these characters for clues and information that might be useful, whilst trying to think about feelings and how they’re going to resolve this situation, there is a steady running theme throughout. These children have all been labelled with ADHD. All of them have been put into the system with medication which has been pulled away from them and they have been let down by the governmental system. It’s very microcosmic of our society and how we treat children with ADHD currently. So much so that at the end of each chapter there are snippets from educational essays and other resources into the effects of medication for ADHD and how ADHD affects children. It feels very well researched which makes this novel feel so realistic and so worrying. It is scary to think that eventually this may be a think we may have to face. 

Overall I loved this novel. Greatly. I’ll definitely be buying myself a physical copy because the cover is beautiful and I think it’ll be one that I recommend to lots of people. You can pick up your copy of Concentr8 on the 27th August (THIS THURSDAY!) and I definitely recommend that you do. 

Total pages – 324

Total read time – 4 hours 15 

Rating /10 – 8.5

Recommend – Yes. Definitely. 

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