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Ellen Hopkins's "Impulse" Review

Updated on January 25, 2017

A Wonderful, Heartbreaking Tale

Not only is the book perfect in its form and rhythm, but the characters are literally taken from the youth of today.

By far the most wonderful thing Ellen does with this novel is hit her readers with a sense of compassion for her characters and the hardships they've faced throughout their lives. She gives them depth and an actual meaning of being sad. More importantly, she captures these emotions, stories, and thoughts into a few short, precise lines. So the book, despite its 666 pages, is a really quick read (I finished it in two days, would have finished it sooner had I not had to work).

This is my first book I've read by this author. Unfortunately, I wish I would have read more of her work when I was going through this myself, I feel like it would have helped me a great deal. But, all personal matters aside, this is a review and let me tell you, this book is a must-have. Ellen Hopkins is known in the young adult community, for tackling those tough issues that are shocking to read about, but are particularly disturbing when they are about such young people.

Oh, and, a common thing I've seen written about this book is that it is a "trigger" warning and YES! I certainly can see that being an issue so if you suffer from suicidal thoughts, depression, self-harm proceed with caution.

Now, on with the rest of the review!

To summarize the plot:

Three kids are taken to a home, of sorts, for their varying degrees of failed, attempted suicide. They enter Aspen Springs, the home, deeply depressed and hating everything in their lives. The only comfort they find is in the blade, in pills, or in sex and without these things, these kids are hopeless, seemingly. Conner: the jock and pretty boy who is fond with the older ladies, Tony: A witty, confused homosexual who has a number of emotions regarding his life and the mystery figure he calls Phillip and Vanessa: an insecure girl, daughter of a schizophrenic, bipolar mother and a military father, who finds comfort in cutting herself. Conner is heartbroken and tries to shoot himself through the heart, Tony hates himself for a number of reasons and attempts to commit suicide by overdose, and Vanessa has a number of mental and tramautic issues that forces her to try and bleed herself out. Eventually, these three cross paths and, as their story progresses, they become more and more happy with everything. I won't go any further for fear of "spoilers".

Ellen's poetry/fiction was brilliant in this book. I felt connected to the protagonists and their thoughts. On a personal level: I've been where these kids have been (maybe not the wilderness) and that was a dark time for me and I am so happy that Ellen Hopkins gave a face to that kind of despair. On a literary level: the form of the poetry is rhythmic and concise, very, very snappy. On a philosophical level: it really gets you thinking about the various, massive issues the youth face on a daily basis and how most, of the ones who did attempt, think in regards to life and death.

I personally feel that if the book had been written any other way instead of prose, it wouldn't have had quite an impact on its readers as it did. The words are like knives pricking into your gray matter, easy to remember, easy to think about, hard to forget for sure.

The book is also a symbol for the youth of today, balancing a look that is up to status quo, balancing religion, sexual desires, parent's expectations, school, social life, depression, and even the sense of family they find in friends that just cannot be met with biological family members.

I found this one hard to put down and forced myself to read it in between projects my boss at the day job needed me to do.

Ellen Hopkins did a phenomenal job with this story - it's powerful, heartbreaking and I do think it really shows the struggles and turmoils people with depression have. And suicide it's even a harder topic to write about - it goes deeper and it really hard to grasp every aspect and reasoning behind it.

Wonderful book and certainly deserves a read.


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