The Hit, by Melvin Burgess
Chicken House, ISBN: 978 0 545 55699 6
Adam and Lizzie were at the concert that started it all — the one where Jimmy Earle died onstage. After taking the drug Death, Jimmy lived one amazing week, but in true Death fashion, he died after his seven days were up. The riots that are heading for revolution started that night, as did a week of romance and ripping apart, of violence and shocking discoveries, and trying to figure out how to save something, to make this short time worthwhile, because Adam is going to die, too, at the end of it.
Burgess sets all of this against a backdrop of a society on the brink in the not-too-distant future, ripe for revolution, and uses this to make broad points about our own point in time as well as upping the atmosphere of danger and the tension. He’s excellent at creating personalities and motivation in ways that you can understand, giving access to worlds you might never enter yourself, as he did in his amazing book about heroin use, Smack (also published as Junk). Even more, he is a master of creating scenarios so plausibly that you feel like you are there, or he was. My favourite example of this skill is his book Lady (available as an ebook only here, but check your library, too, it’s worth the hunt), in which a teen girl turns into a dog, and as a reader, you fully buy that this is what it’s like to actually be one. He’s a phenomenal writer, and this idea of one incredible week before dying is, in his hands, a great, tight, tense, page-turning ride with an ending that satisfies just as the revolution is breaking out.
If it sounds like this blend of action, danger, desperation, and gangsters is right up your alley, you might also want to look in on Niall Leonard’s Crusher, which I reviewed here. The sequel to that one is out, as well, so that review is coming!
Also available as an ebook.