Near-future London has been devoured by riots. The culprits? Out of control teens labelled "feral" by the media and the police.
Huge swaths of misbehaving students have been put on a new wonder drug called Concentr8. It's like Ritalin on steroids. Wait, that might be confusing, it's like Super-Ritalin. There, that's better.
Concentr8 has been "proven" by the medical community, often backed by pharmaceutical companies, to reduce criminality in youth suffering from ADHD.
Then, out of the blue, the program is stopped cold. The teens, suddenly deprived of their precious drug, go all Dee Snider and decide that they "Ain't Gonna Take It," hence the riots.
The novel focuses on a young gang, although they wouldn't call themselves that. It's made up of Blaze, Troy, Lee, Femi & Karen. They've been on Concentr8 for many years and decide to wander out and see if they can capitalize on the rioting.
The problem is Blaze, their unofficial leader, decides to take things to a brand new level. He holds a man at knife-point, robs him and takes him to an abandoned warehouse in London where he holds him hostage. The others go along with the crime, because that's what gang members usually do.
With no real plan in mind, they tie the hostage to a radiator and decide to wait out the riots.
Told from multiple perspectives, including all of the gang members, a journalist, the hostage, a police negotiator and the mayor of London, Concentr8 delivers a fast paced, gritty ride through a week-long hostage crisis initiated by a group of troubled teens that don't really know what they want or why they did what they did in the first place.
I'll admit, I didn't know very much about ADHD going into this novel and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the little snippets of research Sutcliffe provides at the beginning of each chapter on drugs like Ritalin and the motives of pharmaceutical companies.
Fans of Trash by Andy Mulligan and the film Attack the Block will really enjoy Concentr8. It's about kids being steamrolled by a system they didn't ask to be a part of. It's about how frantic we are to label kids as having ADHD or bi-polar or whatever disability is the hot new thing. Check it out.