Tricks – book review

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Tricks is a heartbreaking and emotional book, written by Ellen Hopkins.

Five teenagers from all across American with seemingly different lives are all searching for similar things – freedom, safety, community, family, love. But what these people don’t expect is that the three little words ‘I love you’ can be said for all the wrong reasons.

These five moving stories remain separate at first, and then intertwine to tell a larger, more powerful story – one of making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up all the while asking, ‘Can I ever feel okay about myself?’

*

Like all the other books I’ve read by Ellen Hopkins, I really enjoyed reading Tricks. If you’ve heard of Ellen Hopkins or if you’ve read any of her books, you’ll know that each of her books tackles big problems in the form of free-verse poetry. This book was no exception. Tricks is a book about teenage prostitution – and there’s no sugar coating it. This book faces issues head on and because it’s written in such a way that there’s only about fifteen or so words on each page, meaning there’s no room for putting things lightly. It was definitely a really interesting books and I’m very happy I read it because I really didn’t know much about this topic.

When I first started reading this book, I got a little confused to which character was talking. Because this book revolves around the lives of five characters, I initially felt as though each character’s chapter was too short and that I wasn’t getting enough of an idea as to what they were like and what there situation was. I felt as though there were too many switches and that meant I didn’t get enough time to understand all the characters. As the book progressed, I slowly got more of an idea as to what was going on with each person and I liked getting to know them better.

This book did feel a little short and a bit rushed in some places. Some of the decision-making that should have taken a while happened in a matter of pages and some of the character developments felt too quick. By the time I really got to understand the characters, I would have been one third of the way into the book. This book would really have benefitted from having more space for each of the characters in the chapters. Perhaps even if there were three or four characters, not five. I felt like I would have really understood the people more if I spent more time with each of them. Nevertheless, I found the lives of the characters really interesting once they hit ‘rock bottom’, so to speak. Before that, the book was a little dull, but I understood we needed some background to really care about these people.

This book is both intriguing and heartbreaking, and the more I read, the more devastating it became. It’s really a jolt into reality, because I think this is an issue that is hardly spoken about. I didn’t even know that much about it before reading this book. I feel as though the issues that Ellen Hopkin’s tackles are really important things to read about because they’re often not really discusses in this way. Ellen really doesn’t hold back, and that meant I had tears in my eyes on quite a number of occasions. The characters that I didn’t really feel anything for initially became people I cried over in the end, because no matter how much I didn’t like them, no person should ever have to suffer the fates that these people did. My heart just broke to them to see them have to resort to the things that they did.

This book isn’t an easy book to read it’s intense and emotional, but I do think that everyone should read it. This wasn’t my favourite book by Ellen Hopkins, but I still really enjoyed it and it’s definitely worth your time if you’re interested in reading about topics that are generally not discussed or written about. I’d give Tricks by Ellen Hopkins a score of 8 out of 10. If you’ve read any books by Ellen Hopkins, let me know what you thought of them. Do you like her writing style? Which book is your favourite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Burned – book review

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Burned is a riveting and emotional book by Ellen Hopkins.

It all started with just one dream. It wasn’t anything exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind that most teen girls would experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten isn’t like most teen girls. She’s a part of a religious – yet abusive – family and while a simple dream might not exactly be a sin, it could be the first step towards, in her and her family’s view, eternal damnation.

The dream is the first step for Pattyn, and she has to ask herself if it’s one to hell or to a better life. Pattyn begins to question things – God, a woman’s role, sex, and love in particular. It’s with a boy that Pattyn gets into real trouble. When Pattyn’s father catches them in a compromising position, things begin to spiral out of control until Pattyn is suspended from school and sent to live with an aunt she doesn’t know.

In the wilds of rural Nevada, Pattyn is expected to find salvation and redemption. Yet she finds something very different. When she meets Ethan, she realises that this exile could show her love and acceptance instead. It’s the first time that she’s felt worthy of both, but she finds that her old demons aren’t ready to let go of her. Pattyn’s decisions will lead her to a hell – not the hell that she learned about in her religious meetings, but a hell all the same.

*

Like all the other books I’ve read by Ellen Hopkins, I really loved reading this one. This would now be my fourth – maybe? – book by her and I really love her style of writing. If you somehow haven’t heard of Ellen Hopkins, she writes her books in the form of free verse poetry. Her writing is both beautiful and raw and I enjoy every page. The words are also set out really nicely on the page so it’s also great to look at. Her books always flow beautifully and the pacing is perfect. It’s hard to say which of her books I like best because they’re all slightly different with different themes, but they’re all a bit similar in the way that they deal with big issues that a lot of authors would shy away from. One of the things I like most about Ellen Hopkins is the fact that she isn’t one of those authors that shy away from specific topics. She in fact deals with them head on and maybe it’s her writing, but everything feels so raw and so powerful and it would be hard to sugarcoat things in the precise and concise writing style she has.

One of the things I loved most about this book was how emotional it made me feel. I love being emotionally attached to the storyline and the characters, and that was definitely the case in this book. The plot was one of the things that was most heartbreaking about this book. Burned, put simply, is a book about a girl from a Mormon family who is affected by an abusive father and has conflicting beliefs about what her religion wants for her and what kind of life she wants for herself. Pattyn is our main character and she goes on a journey of discovering who she really wants to be. She decides that she doesn’t want to be ruled by her family or her religion and she wants to decide what she wants for her own life. I loved going on that journey with her – both heartbreaking and inspiring – and I loved getting to know her as well as I did.

There’s not much that I know about Mormons or the Mormon community and although I’ve heard that a few people think that this book could be misrepresenting this group of people, I really think that it doesn’t matter than it was a Mormon community. It could have been any close-knit community and the effect would have been the same. The point is that if these kind of things can happen in a community like this, it could happen in any community. I’m sure that terrible and devastating things like this do happen and it’s heartbreaking to realise that this would be the shocking reality for a lot of people. Abuse must happen in a lot of cultures and this book really made me realise that a lot of people don’t say anything. Like Pattyn said, it’s not just the fear, it’s the shame that comes with that abuse.

I really liked the philosophical and religious questions posed in this book. Like a lot of Ellen’s book, this book really made me think. This book asked the question of whether there was any higher being, which is definitely a question that a lot of people ask themselves sometime during their life. Another thing I loved about this book was getting to know Ethan. Ethan is a farm boy and lives close to Pattyn’s aunt’s farm. Ethan treated Pattyn the way she deserved to be treated and that was really great to see. He treated her with love and respect and really cared about her. It was lovely to see that everyone, no matter what you look like or what type of lifestyle you have, you can always find that one person who will light up your life like no one else can. For Pattyn, Ethan was this person. I loved watching their relationship grow and their ending was devastating, but that didn’t mean I liked it any less. I think that it taught me to make the most of the time you have with those you love, because you never know what could happen and some things you just can’t do anything about. There are things in life you can’t control and you just have to make the most of what you have and live to the fullest.

This book can really be depressing in parts. Like all of Ellen’s books, Burned is deep. Her books are definitely not for everyone and I think you should only read these books if you think you can handle them. This book had be staring at a blank wall for a good fifteen minutes after finishing it just because I was filled with so many emotions and I didn’t want the book to be over. I’ll definitely have to read the next book to find out what happened. I’d give Burned by Ellen Hopkins a score of 9 out of 10. If you like reading books by Ellen Hopkins or if you’re looking for something new to try, I definitely recommend this book!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Crank – book review

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Crank is a compelling and unforgettable book, written by Ellen Hopkins.

Kristina was a bright and good teenager, but now that Kristina is gone. In her place is Bree – dangerous, up for anything, and craving the monster known as Crank, the highly addictive drug.

Kristina begins to transfer into Bree on a trip to visit her largely absent and negative influencing father when she meets Adam. Kristina had felt the presence of her brave and flirty alter-ego even before the trip that changed everything, but with the desire to be someone else, Bree takes over. Spiralling into addiction, Kristina struggles to regain control of her life. Is it too late? Has Bree taken control for good?

*

Crank was such a mesmerising and compelling book and I loved reading it. This was the third book I’ve read by Ellen Hopkins, Impulse and Rumble are the other two I’ve read, and I absolutely love her style of writing. If you don’t already know, Ellen’s books are written in the form of free verse poetry and it’s absolutely beautifully written. In some ways though, her books are very confronting because of the way they’re written. It seems like everything is very blunt and too the point because of her writing style and it makes all her books just that more shocking and real and heartbreaking. There’s no sugarcoating or side-tracking in her books, just brutal honesty and words that will burn a place in your mind forever.

This book isn’t a pretty book. Yes, Ellen’s writing style is beautiful and poetic, but also harsh and sometimes confronting. This book tells the story of a young adult’s addiction to the monster known as Crank, which in itself is heartbreaking. The things this girl goes through are devastating and they felt so real. This book is apparently loosely based off the story of Ellen’s own daughter, which gives this book such a realistic feel. I never really thought of what it must be like to be the family or friend of someone with an addiction as bad as Kristina’s. Reading this book not only showed me what it would be like for the person with the addiction, but it was also devastating to see how the family and friends of the person addicted to this destructive substance were affected. This book really shows how that the friends and family of that person could often be in denial as much as the addict herself. These people would try to believe there was a good excuse for everything that had been going on, but the more Kristina struggled to gain control of her life again, the more the shocking reality of what was really going on was driven home.

The thing that haunted me most about this book was that, like Kristina, I was under the belief that she had her addiction under control. It wasn’t until towards the end of the book that I realised both Kristina and I had been deluding ourselves and we didn’t see just how much of an affect Crank could have. It definitely was like a monster, always lurking in the darkness and whispering to Kristina when she was most vulnerable. Seeing Kristina’s downward spiral was truly devastating. I believe a lot of people don’t realise what having an addiction to this type of drug can do to both oneself and their family and friends.

One of the things I loved most about this book was that it didn’t shy away from any issues. However deeply unsettling it may be, this book shows the truth of what some people’s lives are like. The devastating reality of what some people have to deal with is confronting at times, but necessary to read about. This is the book that gives a voice to the often voiceless people of those affected by substance addiction both personally and through the lives of others. This book is truly nothing like I’ve ever read before and it was so captivating and it will definitely stay with me for a long time.

Another thing that was really great about this book was the transition Kristina took to become Bree. Bree wasn’t created from Crank, but she made everything that came after happen. Bree had existed within Kristina before, but Kristina didn’t ever let her loose until the day she wanted to be someone else; someone confident and flirty and up for anything. Kristina becoming Bree was remarkably realistic and it felt like a lot of people would have these different personalities beneath their surfaces, and only some people choose to let them out while others do not. I think that a lot of people would be able to relate to this because I think a lot of people I know and have read about often have a braver, more exciting part to them which often contrasts to the person’s rational thinking. Bree to Kristina is like the little devil from those cartoons and movies, sitting on your shoulder and telling you to do what is often not the right thing. But the thing is, often that voice is very persuading and people might give into it because the suggestion might be enticing or sound like a good idea at the time.

Overall, I really loved Crank. It’s brutally honest and sometimes very confuting and I admit that the writing style and the issues in this book might not be for everyone, but I would definitely recommend you give the books written by Ellen Hopkins a try if you haven’t already. If I had to choose which one of Ellen’s books I preferred, I would say Rumble, only beating Crank by a hair. I’d give Crank a score of 8.5 out of 10. If you’ve read this book or any other books by Ellen Hopkins, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Rumble – book review

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins is a raw and powerful book about faith, blame and forgiveness.

Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything. Not in his family, which was left in chaos and disarray after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in his so-called friends who simply turn their backs and ignore the problems when things get hard. Not in some higher being who allows too many bad things to happen in the world. And definitely not in everything and everyone who keeps on telling him that things will get better. How could things possibly get better after something like this?

No matter what Matt’s girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, Matt just can’t let go of the blame and the guilt. He’s determined to ‘live large and go out with a bang’, but a horrifying event plunges Matt into a dark and silent space. But then he hears a rumble. This rumble wakes him up and calls everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.

*

I really enjoyed reading Rumble. This was the second book by Ellen Hopkins that I’ve read. Ever since reading Impulse, I’ve desperately wanted to read another book by Ellen. I loved her style of writing. Both of her books that I’ve read have been written in free verse poetry. It’s a really different way of writing a novel, but somehow, Ellen just makes it work. The way the free verse poems sit on the page is really cool. This book is written in first person so when the main character speaks, it’s in speech marks like a normal book. When another character speaks, their speech is indented and in italics. Admittedly, it does take a little while to get used to this style of writing. However once you’re used to it, this book really flies by. This book didn’t feel long at all because I absolutely sped through it and didn’t want to stop reading it. Again, this is a book I read in a day. That’s becoming quite a habit for me. I never know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because sometimes I want to savour the book because it’s so amazing, but at the same time, I want to know what happens in the end. Rumble is definitely one of those books. It was highly addictive.

One thing I really liked about this book was the plot. If you’ve read any other books by Ellen Hopkins, you’ll know that most of the things she writes is really dark and deep. I said this in my Impulse review as well, but I wouldn’t recommend reading these books if you don’t enjoy reading dark and emotional stuff. Even though I enjoyed reading this book, this isn’t a book that I’d reread again in a hurry just because of how heavy it is. I’m really glad I read it though, because this book definitely discusses some important themes like dealing with someone close to you committing suicide, making good relationships with those around you, having faith in a religion, and having faith in yourself. This book is fundamentally about a boy whose younger brother committed suicide after being bullied for so long about being gay. Matt, the main character and older brother, struggles to deal with his loss and the anger he holds for those who ultimately caused his brother’s death. Matt also doesn’t have very strong relationships with his family and his girlfriend is somewhat unsupportive of his actions and his lack of belief in religion. This book is quite depressing at points, but it had interesting characters and strong themes, so I felt like it was definitely worth my time.

Matt was an intriguing character. In the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t really connect with him. It took me a little while to fully understand him and his actions. Once I got to know him, I really liked spending time with him. At first, he was introduced as a somewhat angry teenager with a multitude of flaws. In the end, I loved Matt, flaws and all. After all, flaws are what makes a person human. Matt seemed to be a big ball of anger in the beginning. He was angry at his parents for not excepting his brother for being gay, he was angry at the kids at his school who bullied him, and at god for seemingly turning his back on him. Most of all, he blamed himself for what happened. I liked seeing his journey from that angry teenager to someone who understood what had happened and found a way to forgive not only his parents and the kids at his school, but also himself. All of the characters in this book were really well developed. I felt like I knew all of them really well, even the ones we didn’t get much time with. Every person was different and every person had their own story. I liked the individuality of everyone and I liked seeing their lives intertwine.

Surprisingly, I really liked reading about the religious aspects in this book. I’m not a religious person and I’m often aware that some books are trying to force feed you information on the religion that the author believes in. However, this book is in no way that type of book. The religious aspect in this book was done very well and it played a somewhat major role in the story. Because this book is all about blame and forgiveness, it ties in really well. It asks questions about what happens after death and if there really is a supreme being watching over us, and if that being is capable of turning its back on a select few for being ‘unworthy’. Matt often questioned the existence of such a being because he asked questions like, how can their be a supreme being if there’s so much hatred in the world and how can this being let such tragic and awful things happen? I found his perspective on religion and higher beings very relatable and I understood his anger towards the people who believed the higher beings were disapproving of his younger brother’s homosexuality. I felt like this was definitely an interesting contribution to the book.

The ending of this book was definitely unexpected. By the end of the book, I felt so connected to all of the characters. I felt like the ending could have been drawn out a little bit longer because it felt as though everything ended too soon, but I was happy with the ending nonetheless. Everything was tied up neatly and this book definitely fulfilled my hopes. I’d give Rumble by Ellen Hopkins a score of 8.5 out of 10. If this sounds like the type of book you’d be interested in or if you’ve read some of Ellen’s other books, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Impulse – book review

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Enthralling and attention-grabbing, Impulse is a book by Ellen Hopkins.

Aspen Springs is a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act – suicide. Three teenagers with three different lives have tried to escape, but what they’ve done has led them to Aspen Springs.

Vanessa is smart and beautiful, but she believes the only solution to when things get hard is the blade.
Tony has suffered a painful childhood and has turned to pills.
Conner life seems to be perfect. But he’s in a constant battle with his parents, his life and himself.

Now living in a place where they don’t know anybody, all three teenagers need to find someone they can rely on for when times get tough. The only way they can get through this is if they have each other. Maybe they can help each other find their way to a better life, but they have to be strong enough to fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

When I first got this book and opened it to start reading it, I saw what seemed to be a page of free-verse poetry. I thought it must have been some introductory thing to the book or something similar. So I flicked through the other pages to see if the rest of the book was the same as that page. It was. The first thing I thought was: Oh, no! What have I gotten myself into? Even though I’d seen the Goodreads rating of 4.3 stars, which is why I wanted to read it in the first place, I was sceptical as to whether I’d like reading this book. I didn’t think I was the type of person who’d like this book, if it was going to be all like this. But I read the first page to get a taste of whether I’d like it or not before I had to put it down and go out someplace. I wasn’t expecting to like it. But I did. I loved it. After I read that first page, I was desperate to read more. Why did I go out and not take the book with me? That was the thing I was thinking over and over again until I returned home that night. I really wanted to know where things were going to go from that first page. For me, this book was definitely love-at-first-page.
I really liked the characters in this book, Vanessa especially. I felt like she was the most thought-about and planned character. Tony and Conner felt semi-done to me and I often couldn’t remember whose point of view I was reading from, unless it was Vanessa. I liked finding out what happened to them that led them to this place. I loved how their friendships developed throughout the book.
Impulse deals with some really deep issues. Ellen Hopkins tackled these issues head-on and I loved her courage for writing such shocking and possibly disturbing things. Only a really skillful author can write about these things without making clichés or making the story seem unrealistic. Ellen’s writing was full of emotion and had me tear-up in quite a few places. This book really was an emotional rollercoaster and wasn’t all depressing, like I thought it could have been. But there is a lot of depressing parts in this book and I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re in a bad place at the moment. There are happier books to read out there, but I really enjoyed experiencing Ellen Hopkins’s writing. I absolutely loved how this book was written and I will definitely be reading more of Ellen’s books soon! I’d give Impulse by Ellen Hopkins a score of 8 out of 10. If you’re looking for a book that’s different and exciting, this is the book for you!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!