Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Review: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

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.

17 comments:

Shweta said...

Looks like its time for me to read one of Ellen Hopkins books. I have read rave reviews of Glass and Crank but somehow have missed them during my book buying spree.Need to correct that mistake really soon :)

As for sudden change in narration , I have felt that for quite a few books recently. Abrupt change in voice makes it really hard on the reader but I guess then, it's the author's book , it's their style :)

Kwana said...

Great review. I had not heard of this book. Thanks.

Nymeth said...

I tend to be scared of novels in verse (actually, more of the idea of them, which is silly, I know), but this definitely appeals to me. It sounds like it tackles a lot of difficult subjects and does it well. It's too bad about the abrupt voice shifts, though.

bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, that sounds heartbreaking!

cynthial11 said...

Wow! This one sounds really interestingt. I hadn't heard about it. I'll add it to my list. Awesome review!

Staci said...

Lenore, I think if you started at the beginning it may have made the movement between the 5 stories much easier for you. This is her style, but once you get familiar with it, you're pulled in and can't stop reading until the very last page.

Kathleen said...

It sounds like the book deals with a powerful and disturbing subject matter, well.

Jenny said...

I thought the same exact thing about making it 5 short stories instead and wrote that in my review, lol!

bookaholic said...

It sounds like a very powerful and compelling read..
The book cover suggests it's dark material-as if it is yelling out that 'this one is a no fooling around read'!

nat @book, line, and sinker said...

i haven't heard of ellen hopkins until this moment. it always amazes me to see just how many books and authors i might have missed if not for book blogs!

shweta's comment with references to glass and crank also pulled me in. i love authors who face real issues head on.

thanks for the review and for putting the bug in my ear about this author!

LovesSam said...

I've heard so many great things about Hopkins, I may have to invest in one of her books, but they do sound incredibly intense, like something you would really have to put your mind to and immerse yourself in. Amazing review, thanks :-)

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Jan von Harz said...

While I have not read any of Hopkins books, my students love them. Your review however, makes me think I am definitely missing out. Tricks sounds very poignant and I am now quite curious how Hopkins manages to bring this together in verse. Thanks for sharing.

PS. loved your April 1 post it was hilarious, and like all good humor had some underlying truths.

Zibilee said...

This does sound like a very interesting and engrossing book. I haven't read anything by this author, and I don't think I have ever read any book about this subject matter before. I am glad it was such a good read for you, and I am seriously thinking that I need to grab a copy for myself. Great review on what I can imagine is a very penetrating book.

Jodie said...

I didn't realise this was written in verse. I'm always looking for more novels in verse and this is probably the first YA book I've seen that makes its main characters prostitutes.

Melissa M said...

I've only read one Hopkins book (Impulse), but it was amazing. I really need to make the time for another one.