In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADHD. Soon every troubled teen is on it, in order to keep the ‘undesirable elements’ in line.
Troy, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 as long as they can remember. They’re not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader. They’re not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it.
This is a book about how we label children. It’s about how kids get lost in the system, and it’s about how politicians manipulate them.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, but sadly, I found myself disappointed. Perhaps I’d been hearing too much hype about Concentr8 before I finally got the chance to read it, but I couldn’t help but feel let down. It sounded promising and exciting, but it was just confusing and uninteresting. I honestly don’t know how I made it through this book, and it was only about 200 pages — so that’s saying something. What I expected to be an enthralling, devour-in-one-go type of book ended up being something that I probably won’t look at again. I’m sure that it’s definitely appealing to some people, but it just wasn’t my type of thing and I couldn’t get into it.
Concentr8 is told from multiple points of view, which was frustrating and hard to follow. I’ve never been a fan of novels told from more than two people’s perspectives, so upon realising that this one was going to be a multi-POV book, it already put me into the wrong headspace. But as much as I tried to understand the characters I was reading about, I just couldn’t seem to connect or sympathise with any of them. They all seemed very similar to me, which didn’t help me tell them apart or fully learn their backstories and personalities.
I understand that some books don’t need likeable or relatable characters if the plot is engaging enough by itself. Of course, I think that great novels should have great characters to complement the great plot, but ultimately, there’s no right way to write a book, and good authors know that. However, I think it’s fairly self-explanatory to state that a book should have one likeable element — either the plot or the characters — and I just didn’t see that here. The idea sounded interesting, but in practice, it was confusing and lacked clarity and depth.
There isn’t really much for me to say on the writing style of this novel expect for that I didn’t enjoy it. I understand it was trying to do the whole ‘Look at me! I’m unique!’ thing by adding in little snippets of articles at the beginning of each chapter, but this is being done so much lately that I’m honestly growing tired at this boring attempt to make a book more interesting. But the sad part is that I actually liked those snippets the most out of everything I read. Why? Because they actually provided me with solid information, not things I had guess from the unreadable way in which our characters spoke. I understand that they’re from London and the author was trying to make their voice authentic, but it was really quite annoying and it was almost like I had to translate what they were saying into ‘proper English’ inside my head. As if this book weren’t hard enough to read.
One of Concentr8’s main downfalls is that so much was happening, but it still felt quite dull because I didn’t care about what was going on because there was just too many pieces of information being thrown at us. I started this novel feeling bombarded as I was expected to get to know the characters and this almost post-apocalyptic setting and their motivations and what had created this chaotic world… it was a mess. Controlled chaos is enjoyable to read about, and it’s fun to be consumed by a world, but Concentr8 threw me in the deep end and expected me to be able to navigate a shark-infested pool. Reading this book is just like it sounds like — tiring, confusing, and made me cultivate a little bit of hate for the person that put me there.
I honestly think this book doesn’t deserve all the hype that’s surrounding it. Sure, some people might find it enjoyable and want to recommend it to others, but I’d say you should check out some books that are underrated and are more worthy of your love, in my eyes: Night Owls, The Flywheel or Life in Outer Space. Concentr8 just didn’t appeal to me — sorry!
Have you read Concentr8? Have you heard anything about it? What’s your opinion on hyping up books? What’s a book you’ve read that was ‘overhyped’ and meant you didn’t enjoy it? Would you prefer a strong plot or interesting and realistic characters? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Publication date: August 2016
Australian RRP: $16.99