If you plan on reading A ¼ Gram, you may need at least two days of free time to get through it. This novel will suck you in and pique your curiosity to the extent that you lose track of time. All that matters once the reading begins is whether or not the characters will recover from their turmoil.

The saying 'Don't judge a book by its cover' completely applies to A ¼ Gram. Its pale white cover has nothing to do with the turbulent action and turmoil of feelings in this novel.

If you haven't grown up in Egypt, most of the names of places and neighbourhoods will not ring a bell. To the translator's credit, a footnote is attached to every page; explaining in detail all what might seem unfamiliar to the reader.

A ¼ Gram follows the story of Salah and his friends in their struggle with drug addiction. What adds to the authenticity of the novel is that it’s based on a true story; a friend of the author actually asked him to write about his life.

What starts out as a thrilling new experience ends up becoming a life-threatening addiction. What begins as a harmless ¼ gram leads to a completely hopeless addiction to heroin. The novel exposes the intricacies of the world of drugs and addiction in Egypt.

The characters in A ¼ Gram are three-dimensional and are very believable. Youssef succeeds in persuading unexpected emotions in his readers: you won't feel sorry for the characters for falling into the trap of addiction; you may even feel angry, want to shake them with all your might and slap them back to reality. Pity and sympathy are reserved for the characters’ suffering families. Loss after loss doesn't bring them back to their senses, and readers will feel the utter desperation of their situation; but there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you have the chance to read A ¼ Gram in Arabic; do so. The English translation doesn't capture the essence of the Egyptian society as accurately as the Arabic version does. Originally written in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, the Arabic version conveys the characters in a more familiar and personable light. It's no fun reading commonly used Egyptian expressions transcribed in English; and the difference between a translated novel and a novel originally written in English is extremely tangible.