A powerful, gritty novel in verse that shares the stories of five teens looking for love but ending up in Las Vegas, turning tricks.
This was my first venture into reading Ellen Hopkins, though I’ve heard all the praise and even had her novels on my shelves for years. I just wasn’t sure I’d take to a novel in verse or the controversial subject matter.
And yes, TRICKS is hard core. Hopkins doesn’t sanitize or shy away from the hard truths of what prostitution entails, but she doesn’t get into gratuitous detail either. And she doesn’t preach – she tells cautionary tales. She doesn’t say “gambling is bad, don’t do it,” but she shows clearly what the consequences could be for a teen who gets addicted to gambling (and it’s not pretty). And the best part is that she makes the characters compelling and the tales compulsively readable (yes – even in verse).
Though each of the five main characters all deserved sympathy for their terrible situations, my heart went out most to Ginger, Eden and Seth – all characters seriously betrayed by their own families. With a prostitute mother who wasn’t above selling her own children for cash, Ginger had it by far the worst, and it wasn’t hard to see why she felt she had to do the things she did. Eden’s fanatically religious parents sent her to a punishment camp for falling in love, and Seth’s father kicked him out for being gay. Cole and Whitney were somewhat less sympathetic because they both made really bad choices, which put them in positions where it was easy to let predators take advantage of them.
I do wonder though if it was really necessary to alternate the stories throughout the novel instead of just making these 5 short stories. There wasn’t enough overlap between the tales to justify the disorientation I felt each time one voice abruptly left off and another began. Sometimes it took me a moment to realize which of the five teens I was reading about. The current structure does well though in luring you in, I’ll give it that. The first pages are all about love and searching for self identity and then slowly the interweaving narratives get darker and darker. Of course by that time, you are invested in the characters and are willing to endure much unpleasantness to follow them to the depths of hell.
TRICKS is out now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.
I am giving away a copy of TRICKS signed by Ellen herself in my presence. To enter to win (open internationally), comment at my Bologna recap post.