Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on January 19th 2016
Genres: Social Issues, Dystopian
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In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADD. Soon every troubled teen is on it. It makes sense, doesn't it? Keep the undesirable elements in line. Keep people like us safe from people like them. What's good for society is good for everyone. 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, and Troy has always been his quiet, watchful sidekick - the only one Blaze really trusts. They're not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it. What makes five kids pick a man seemingly at random - a nobody, he works in the housing department, doesn't even have a good phone - hold a knife to his side, take him to a warehouse and chain him to a radiator? They've got a hostage, but don't really know what they want, or why they've done it. And across the course of five tense days, with a journalist, a floppy-haired mayor, a police negotiator, and the sinister face of the pharmaceutical industry, they - and we - begin to understand why ...This is a book about what how we label children. It's about how kids get lost and failed by the system. It's about how politicians manipulate them. Gripping and controversial reading for fans of Malorie Blackman and Patrick Ness.
Please tell us about yourself.
IÂ’m forty-four and I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, with my wife and three children.
Do you have any pets?
We have a cat called Moses, on account of his white beard. My son has two axolotls, who are very strange creatures indeed.
What is your favorite ice cream?
Chocolate, of course.
What are your five favorite books or series?
I always find it very hard to answer this question, but five of my favorite YA novels are:
Holes Â– Louis Sachar
In Darkness Â– Nick Lake
The following three arenÂ’t published as YA, but I was a teenager before YA was invented as a separate category, and these are probably the three books that made the biggest impression on me as teenager:
Catcher in the Rye Â– J.D. Salinger
The Cement Garden Â– Ian McEwan
The Secret Dairy of Adrian Mole Â– Sue Townsend
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I didnÂ’t become a committed reader until I was in my mid-teens, and I think that as soon as I fell in love with reading I wanted to be a writer.
Who is your favorite writer?
Impossible to choose just one. I love writers who manage to be funny and serious at the same time: Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan . . . the list goes on.
Tell us about your book.
There are many great schools and many great teachers, but successive recent governments seem to be obsessed with over-examining children in order to achieve measurable success according to the narrow parameters of international competitiveness. Teachers are being given less and less scope to teach in the way they want to teach, and children less opportunity to have a childhood. People who donÂ’t comply with behavioural norms are likely to have their problems medicalized, and to be pressurised into taking ADHD medication, which offers no benefit over the long term.
We tell ourselves that we are increasingly tolerant as a society, but the burgeoning growth of ADHD suggests to me that we are in fact becoming more rigid, and less tolerant of those people who have difficulty spending childhood and adolescence sitting behind a desk. Many adults know they arenÂ’t cut out for office work, and find productive and successful careers in practical, physical work. Children with this psychological make-up are likely to be branded as failures, and (under the banner of ADHD) unjustly labelled as somehow mentally defective.
The fact that parents are incentivised into giving powerful ADHD drugs to their children by the British welfare system also struck me as scandalous. The idea of a state that pays parents to drug children struck me as a something out of science fiction rather than a plausible political reality. I wanted to write a novel using this premise that started off seeming like the former, but as you read, reveals itself to be closer to the latter.
– Was Concentr8 inspired by an event or a person?
A while ago I spent a year doing voluntary work as a mentor to a teenager who had lived a very difficult life in a London housing project. This book doesnÂ’t tell his story, but his voice, intelligence and spirit are alive in the character of Troy.
Did you base Concentr8 off of anyone or thing in your own life?
It all started from a conversation with a friend of mine who is a child psychiatrist, who one evening told me about the pressure she was under to prescribe Ritalin to kids who she felt wouldnÂ’t necessarily benefit from it. The more she told me about the ADHD epidemic, the more horrified I became. I began to read about the subject, and the idea soon bubbled up for a novel which is in some ways a satire on the ADHD phenomenon.
I have written an article for The Independent, a British newspaper, explaining why I think the $9bn per year ADHD industry does not have the best interests of children at heart. A link is here:Â http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/adhd-being-different-is-not-an-illness-a6757276.html
ABOUT WILLIAM SUTCLIFFE:
William Sutcliffe is the author of the young adult novel The Wall, which was published in 2013 to much critical acclaim, including being short-listed for the 2014 Carnegie Medal and long-listed for the 2013 Guardian Fiction Prize. He also wrote five adult novels, including the international bestseller, Are You Experienced, and a middle-grade novel, Circus of Thieves Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â and the Raffle of Doom. William currently lives in Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Edinburgh.