Genre: Contemporary, Verse, YA
Publication date: January 23rd 2007
by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.
Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act -- suicide.
Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.
Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.
And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.
In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun -- and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other's help, they can find their way to a better life -- but only if they're strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.
Oh Hopkins, what have you done?! I became a huge fan of Ellen Hopkins last year. Impulse is the 5th novel I have read by her and the first that has left me so torn on my feelings for it. Basically what it boils down to is that I liked the idea behind the novel and I think that the way the mental issues and suicide were approached was done very well. What didn’t end up working quite so well for me was a lot of the interactions between the characters.
So first, what I liked here. Well I really liked that Hopkins stayed true to her brutally honest self. There are things that I read in this book that were so ugly that I had to read them twice to make sure I had processed it correctly. These teens did not have good lives at all, each was incredibly sad in it’s own way. I actually read this as a Buddy Read with Christina of a Reader of Fictions and when we were done and talking about the book she mentioned how she liked how each character was of different socioeconomic standing. I have to agree with this wholeheartedly. Tony had grown up being abused, living on the street and even had a stint in juvie. Vanessa had a military father who was never home, a bi-polar mother who couldn’t take care of her so her and her little brother, Bryan, ended up living with their grandmother. Finally, there was Connor who came from a privileged home with nannies and anything he wanted at his disposal. This added diversity to the novel and showed that unhappiness knows no boundaries. Someone who has all the money they could ask for can end up just as depressed as someone who sleeps in a fridge box on the street at night.
I also liked the progress that the characters made in their time at Aspen Springs. We see them talking to the doctors, having visits with family members and coming to know one another. It wasn’t always happy and their road to recovery was hardly a straight line but it felt really authentic to me as a reader. I believed the struggles that these people were going through which made me begin to root for their wellbeing. These interactions leads me into what I didn’t like about the novel. The dialogue (especially between Connor, Tony and Vanessa) was just so utterly unbelievable. It felt so forced and fake for the setting that these characters were in. Most of what they said garnered an eye roll from me because I did not believe that that was how these characters would talk at all. Here is a snippet from when Connor met the girl that he was madly in love with prior to being admitted to Aspen Springs:
“Hello,Connor. How can I help you this enchanting day?”
“I just wanted you to know I find you quite beautiful.” – pg. 82
I just find it so unbelievable that this woman stopped her run and used the term ‘enchanting day’ and that he used that ridiculous pick up line on her. I mean maybe he did because most of his dialogue in the story was very uncharacteristic of a teenaged boy, but just come on. As the story wears on the three main characters come to confide in one another, which is something that I definitely appreciated, but the amount that they told one another that they loved each other went overboard for me. I liked that they were able to find happiness in one another I just wish that the way in which this was accomplished didn’t come across as so damn cheesy to me.
In the end, even though there were things that worked for me and that were well done, this is my least favourite Hopkins novel to date. There was a sense of sunshine that she attempted to bring to the story in the relationships between the characters in the bleakness of the story but it just didn’t work. Luckily, the ending felt authentic and actually caused me to bump up my rating a bit. I’m still very excited to read my way through Hopkins’ work but I think I will definitely have a level of trepidation going into them now.
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