Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
625 pages, Hardcover
Published on August 29, 2009
Summary: Five teenagers from different parts of the country. Three girls. Two guys. Four straight. One gay. Some rich. Some poor. Some from great families. Some with no one at all. All living their lives as best they can, but all searching...for freedom, safety, community, family, love. What they don't expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words "I love you" are said for all the wrong reasons. 
Five moving stories remain separate at first, then interweave to tell a larger, powerful story -- a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up. A story about kids figuring out what sex and love are all about, at all costs, while asking themselves, "Can I ever feel okay about myself?"
My thoughts: As always, Hopkins delivers a striking, poignant, devastating novel on the harsh realities of this world. Her writing was sharp and unflinching, and I'm amazed at how she manages to write about these subjects without growing weary of how sad our world can be. Tricks is about five teens, all of whom end up turning to turning tricks in order to survive. Some stories were more memorable than others, with heart wrenching, heartbreaking characters and scenarios. Yet, no matter the heaviness of her topic of teenage prostitution, Hopkins writes with grace and the mindset of someone who's seen this way of life and even lived through it. The story lines were mostly separate for a huge majority and surprisingly, I really liked that element. It added, making every detail special and its own, instead of overlapping stories and emotions. My favorite character was Cody, your average teen with a somewhat dysfunctional family who turns to gambling, drugs, and sex to ease the pain of loss. Another favorite was Eden, the girl with an overly religious family who falls in love with the perfect guy, only to realize 'perfect' is a relative term when it comes to her parents' opinion. But really, all of the characters were realistic and each of their stories were depressingly real and horrifyingly tragic. Overall, Tricks is a beautifully horrid novel, set in a modern world that doesn't flinch when it comes to survival.
Eden was your average teenage girl, with parents who still lived in the Old Testament of the Bible. She falls in love with a boy who isn't overtly religious and soon her parents find out. Her story was completely heartbreaking, and I found myself blinking back tears several times when reading the prose with which she revealed her feelings and her reasoning for her sad choices. Seth struggled with his sexuality and the fact that he was gay and in the closet. So when his close relationship with a boy from another city disintegrates, he turns to more desperate matters. Seth's story was frighteningly heavy with no real traces of hope. That made his part seem almost the most fearful and sad, because he saw no way out of the hole others created for him. Whitney's mother could've cared less for her, forcing her into the arms of a willing stranger. Her story wasn't quite as deep for me, since it seemed a little obvious the trap she was falling for, but it was sad and touching nonetheless. Ginger thought she had found love with one boy, but soon realizes its not a man she needs at all. I thought her story would be the lightness in the novel, but quickly her life falls into the same pattern as the others, and it made me cry how quickly she and Alex, her girlfriend, fell into such a horrible situation. Lastly, Cody was a boy who had everything: a girl he loved, a family who loved him, and a situation that was good enough to get by in. Then tragedy strikes, and he turns to online gambling. He quickly becomes hooked, making bigger and bigger bets and losing more and more of the little money they have until he's sunk so low he sees only one way out: selling his body. His story was sad, and yet hopeful in a way. For the sake of not ruining it, I won't go into detail. But all of the characters made sad mistakes and though some of them almost find a way out, it was still heartbreaking how long their mistakes take hold of them.
The stories that unfold around the characters were all very sad and very realistic. Hopkins does it again, and makes her story lines feel real and completely stripped of all fluffiness. Everything in Tricks is gritty and raw and evoked emotions in me that many books fail to. I could easily spoil a lot since the stories take a while to take off, so I'll just say they were each emotional and impacting in their own way. A small complaint was that they took a long while to get into the true story. The backstory was mostly necessary, but a little stretched-out, to me at least.
Hopkins is a brilliant poetry writer, in my opinion, and Tricks is no exception. Hopkins writes like she's lived the characters' lives and the whole story has that much more impact because of it. From Eden, love-struck and stolen away, to Cody, who looks to substances and gambling for fulfillment, to Ginger, who becomes a stripper just to get by, Hopkins delivers each characters' prose beautifully and artfully. I loved how each time the perspective changed, there was a short poem by the character about to speak. It was a nice touch, and they segued well into what was going to happen to them next. It also gave an extra flair to their stories, allowing us a glimpse into their minds about subjects that might have been skipped over in their actual stories. All in all, Tricks was written wonderfully, and it was no exception to Hopkins' talented writing style.
Cover: Again, I'm not going to rate it, since its the title. But I still really like this cover design.
Characters: 4.9 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Writing: 5 stars
Overall rating: 4.8 stars


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