Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

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Review: Impulse by Ellen HopkinsImpulse by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 23rd 2007
Genres: Contemporary, Verse, YA
Buy on Amazon

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.


3 Hot Espressos

19 Responses to “Review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    It’s always a shame when a book by an author you love disappoints. I’ve never read anything by Ellen Hopkins but mostly because I need to be in a specific mood for it.
    That quote you shared is very much off-putting. I’m glad that you enjoyed it overall though, Jenni.
    Lovely review.

  2. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I have only read two of her books, but I really enjoyed them. I have been wanting to read more. It’s too bad that this book didn’t work out as well as her others for you, but I’m glad that you still did like it. Fabulous review!!

  3. Faye @ The Social Potato

    You just introduced me to Hopkins! It’s amazing that despite the 3 star rating this book presented you characters with very complex backgrounds and situations. It sounds pretty brutal overall though, and while I like my share of books with controversial themes, I’m not sure I can handle very heavy stuff </3 Fab review nonetheless 😀

  4. Mary @ BookSwarm

    While I do appreciate Hopkins’ brutal honesty, that kind of dialogue is incredibly unrealistic, especially for a teen boy. Even an adult guy. Unless they’re of an earlier generation, people just don’t really speak that way anymore (which is kind of sad).

  5. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I want to read some of Ellen’s books soon, but I’ll probably skip this one because it sounds like it isn’t as good as the rest of her books. I like how each character comes from a different socioeconomic setting, as well. I would definitely be a little put off by the fact that she tries to add a feeling of happiness to events but ends up failing. Glad the ending kind of made up for it though 🙂 Fantastic review, Jenni! <33

  6. Siiri

    Oh, man! It sucks that the characters somewhat let you down in this 🙁 I’m glad that it shows the different social backgrounds and everything, and paints a realistic picture at that. Ohhh *cringes* that dialogue is awkward at best. Not a fan of these two lines. I wonder if it’s like.. written this way intentionally? Idk. It screams uncomfortable to me. I hope that the rest of the books by Hopkins will manage to satisfy your expectations. It’s kind of good that you didn’t love it that much (well, as much as you hoped you would) when you think of it in a weird way, because now you know how much you appreciate her other work *tries to think positively* Great review, Jenni!

  7. Amanda @ Book Badger

    I think sometimes when you’ve read a lot of an authors work, you gain expectations of them, and sometimes they let you down, but not everyone book can be a fantastic book sadly. I’m glad you did enjoy it like you have the others though Jenni, and I’m glad Impulse hasn’t put you off her work, because you really do enjoy her writing 🙂

  8. kimbacaffeinate

    I just finished the Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and I like the author. It always upsets me when I don’t connect completely with a story by a favorite author but it happens. While I haven’t read this I would agree the language the character used “enchanting day” is weird..and if she did say it..what was in her coffee? LOL Great review Jenni 🙂

  9. Melliane

    it’s great that despite some little things it worked for you. I don’t think I knew the author or I don’t remeber but I read grim and she had a novella in it. I liked it but I haven’t read a full book yet. I should try to see how it is. Maybe not this one but one of hers you loved.

  10. Chelsea W

    I remember liking this book fairly well, actually. Of course, it’s been years since I read it so my emotions toward it could easily change with a re-reading. The ending was definitely what made it for me, so for me to still remember that at least, you know it was powerful.

  11. Henrietta

    Hmm… the quoted dialogue did seem a bit unnatural but it’s good to know that even though this might be your least favorite story by Hopkins, you still enjoyed reading the ending. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jenni!