Saturday, June 8, 2013

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

I've been reading books by Ellen Hopkins for years and I have never been disappointed. Her writing is so unique and fascinates me to read. She is one of those writers who is so amazing she makes ME want to write more. She makes me want to be better. She writes her books in free verse, the whole story being told through poetry. Her books always cover very tough subjects and the verse makes these often horrifying topics beautiful subject ready for close inspection. And although her books are huge, I always fly through them partly because of the verse writing and also because I can never step away from her writing for long.

Impulse is her third book written in 2007. There are three characters featured in this book who all meet in a rehabilitation hospital after attempting suicide. Tony took pills to try and escape horrible childhood memories. Vanessa is scared of becoming like her bipolar mother and hides secrets of her own by continuing a long relationship with her razor blade. And to deal with the immense pressure placed on him by his parents and other adults in his life, Connor shot himself in the chest only to find himself alive and in sent to rehab. 

First lines:

Without Warning

you're traveling
a highway, the only road
you've ever known,
and wham! A semi
comes from nowhere
and rolls right over you.

you don't wake up.
But if you happen
to, you know things
will never be
the same.

that's not
so bad.

lives intersect,
no rhyme, no reason,
except, perhaps,
for a passing semi.

Hopkins always writes such complex characters and this novel is no different. I loved these characters and cared so much about each of them getting better and out of that hospital. I was really drawn to Connor, especially the way he was written. Each character had a different style of verse assigned to themselves and Connor's was beautiful. Slant rhyme and amazing imagery kept my heart wrenched for that boy. One of my favorite moments taken out of his chapters:

Okay, I like him, can
trust my instincts again.
I notice Vanessa, taking 
mental notes, know I must

cozy up to her, too.
Part of it is my old self,
wanting nectar from a new 
flower, the beat of a new heart.

Part of it is a simple need 
to connect with someone who
might understand me,
might reach out to imperfect


I loved him.

There was a slight love triangle in this book but even more than that, it was a support triangle that was written very delicately. Each character is afraid to let themselves get attached to another person but there seems to be a string connecting them all to each other. They start with very tenuous friendships that soon bloom into love for some of them. I loved watching these characters allow themselves friendship and allowing a little flower of hope blossom to the surface. 

The friendships felt very real in the book. When you go through a rough time in your life, the people who are there recovering with you often form friendships faster than other people. These are three passionate and troubled people and in an environment filled with such crazy personalities, these three kids link to each other. I liked that little hints of flirtation and attraction were thrown around. 

The desire they felt for each other was great but I kind of felt that the novel didn't need the love triangle. When two of these characters begin a romantic relationship it felt really unnatural and a little forced. What was such a strong friendship that felt like such a lovely support system became an awkward relationship I could have done without. It sort of felt like when those awkward junior high couples date because nobody else is around and they are both awkward and alone. It didn't feel real and I think in a book like this, staying focused on friendship was more important than beginning a relationship for the sake of a relationship. 

The plot moved swiftly and I was never once bored. Honestly I had a hard time putting the book down each time I had to. I was always in suspense. Hopkins is such an amazing writer. She constantly offers little hints at the secrets her characters hold but you usually never find out their secrets until the end of the book. While this is frustrating because I am always DYING to know what these kids are hiding, it makes for a great read. Just when you think you have their stories figured out a curve ball gets thrown and new secrets glide to the surface. So fun to read these books.

It's always a bit scary to read these books as well. Hopkins makes it easy to understand the choices these characters have made and when they have the impulse to do something again, you understand why they feel the need to do it. Of course you don't WANT them to but you understand them. She makes these characters real and relatable. They could be your friends. They could be you. It's a scary feeling to understand them but it makes you want to help them all the more. It changes the way you think and how you see people. These are books that I feel are incredibly important for people to read, especially teenagers. They show that you aren't alone in having such dark struggles. And even though their subject matter is very heavy, I'm always left feeling more alive and more hopeful than ever. This was a wonderful read. 


Until next time, happy reading! I'd love to hear any recommendations you have for me, or your thoughts about anything I've read. Leave your comments below; I'd love to hear from you. 


  1. Ah.... but "relationship" doesn't quite cover Tony/Vanessa, does it? We don't really know what the love feelings mean. So it's not really a triangle. It's confusion, and doesn't that define love for many of us?? :-)

    1. First off, thank you so much for reading this post and commenting. :) I'm so starstruck. One of my favorite authors. Amazing. Life made.

      I completely get that confusion. I loved their friendships so much and I wanted to hold on that. They all seemed so fragile and I got so invested in all of them. I saw them falling on love, or confusing that feeling, and I got nervous for their sweet little tender hearts. They felt like true friends and I didn't want them to feel more pain. Such great characters in this book.

      Again, thanks so much for the comment! I cannot wait to read the rest of what you write in the future. (SOO thrilled for the Burned sequel) :)