Concentr8 – William Sutcliffe

I’ve had a bit less time for reading in recent days; my time has been taken up with interviews and prep for said interviews (yay!), being ill (not yay) and catching up with friends and family (including one truly awesome experience which was a gift from my little sister (super ultra yay!)).

So, I have a bit less to post about than usual, having had less time to read cereal packets. But I have managed to squeeze in the latest gift from The Book Fairy (thank you, Book Fairy!). It’s called Concentr8, and it’s a YA political/social commentary. I was definitely attracted by the premise – a drug called Concentr8 is at the centre of a fictional riot and accompanying incident which makes five kids notorious. What this incident is, we don’t find out until a chapter or three in, but the drug itself becomes pretty clear quite quickly; Concentr8 is a fictional replacement for Ritalin, the widely used and controversial ADHD medication.

Now, I’m a big fan of social and political awareness (my commiserations to the Americans grieving the world as we know it today), especially for young people, but to be honest, Concentr8 felt a little too loaded to me, like it was lacking finesse. It felt a little like propaganda, which is not something I’m a fan of. Having said that, however, Sutcliffe does raise some important points and questions:

The potential over-medication for ADHD among certain demographics. Or the over-medication for ADHD full stop. This is a big question; I am very uncomfortable with any suggestion that ADHD is not a ‘real’ illness (and the author seems to veer close to that territory a few times) because I think mental health conditions get enough stigma and nowhere near enough support, recognition and understanding without stigmatising conditions further by claiming they don’t exist.


The real issue the author’s trying to get at is the use of neurological drugs to condition socially acceptable behaviour – as opposed to being used to treat illness – and the blurring of lines between education policy, health policy, and policing. This is some next-level Orwellian shizz, my friends. And it’s scary as anything.

Sutcliffe includes quotations from writings on ADHD, Ritalin and other related research, and there’s a bibliography at the back of the book so people can do their own further reading. Definitely food for thought here, and important material for the younger generations to consider.

Other thoughts on Concentr8:

  • Several narrators and a (somewhat cringey?! Maybe?) effort to write in authentic voices. To be honest, I just found the lack of punctuation annoying, instead of how ‘da yoof’ talk. Maybe I’m getting old.
  • A barely-veiled/not really veiled at all caricature of Boris Johnson. The character is really, really unlikeable.
  • Very little nuance. Anywhere.FullSizeRender (4).jpg

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