Monday, April 11, 2016

Nazareth Blogger Stephen reviews Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Check out the book trailer
Hi, my name is Stephen and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. Not only am I a graduate student but I am also a graduate assistant for Dr. Jones and have been helping plan and organize the Teen Book Festival this year! I hope you all love reading as much as I do and trust me, I have quite the book for you.

I have just finished reading Tricks by Ellen Hopkins. Now this novel does not pull any punches. This book is based on real stories which happened to real people. This novel includes sex, drugs, alcohol, sexual violence, abuse, questioning sexuality, and much more; definitely not for the faint of heart.
This book follows five teenagers as they go through situations which push each of these teens into prostitution for their survival: 

Ginger is a young woman in a broken family. She lives with her five siblings who she takes care of, her grandmother who maintains the house, and her mother who is a prostitute and often never home. Ginger must fill her role as a teenage girl, mother to her siblings, and home caretaker with her grandmother. If this chaos was not enough, she finds herself attacked by men twice and raped just to learn later on it was her mother who sold her for sex without her knowledge and she runs away with her friend to escape her nightmare of a life in Las Vegas…

Seth is a young man who struggles with telling his father that he is gay so he sneaks out to be with men he has found over the internet instead. His father find out and kicks Seth out of the house giving him only $40 which he throws on the floor for him to pick up. In order to survive Seth begins sleeping with men in exchange for a place to live and one particular man brings Seth with him to his new home in Las Vegas…
Whitney is a young woman who lives in her sister’s shadow. Her mother does not care for her and her father is hardly around. Her only solace is her boyfriend, Lucas who ends up sleeping with her only to take her virginity and then dump her. Whitney then finds another man while still feeling very vulnerable and flies off to Las Vegas with him where she slowly takes on the life of prostitution and drugs…

Cody is our last young man lives in Las Vegas. Cody lives with his mother, step-father, and younger brother. As his step-father becomes ill and eventually dies Cody takes it upon himself to be the man of the house and provide for everyone. While trying to pay for everything Cody falls heavily into the realm of gambling and also takes up prostitution to help pay debts and bills…

Eden is a young woman who is raised by a very strict Catholic family. Her father is a minister and her mother is very involved in church activities. She falls in love with a young man whom her parents disapprove of and is sent away to a concentration camp like reform boot camp. Here she finds herself using her body for sex to get what she wants and to eventually escape and try to make her way back home and finds her way to Las Vegas…

You may think this is all fiction and that this cannot really happen but the events Ellen Hopkins describes here really did happen to teens. Ellen Hopkins interviewed teen prostitutes and listened to their stories while also talking to other authors who have researched teen prostitution.
In order to tell these teen’s stories, Ellen Hopkins uses free verse poetry style which I found to be incredibly unique and powerful. Here is a short excerpt from Eden’s storyline to give you an idea:

A Poem by Eden Streit
My Future
Is meaningless now,
Flavorless as an icicle
melting, drip by
to puddle and freeze
again upon shadowed
ground. They say to
the pretense, as if
confessing my heart
was a game of charades.
such as these could
only be born of soul-
ripping sorrow. They
in relentless procession,
summer rain upon
parched playa,

What I find so wonderful and intriguing about the free verse style is that it evokes powerful emotions from me as I read the novel and really helped make a bond between me and the characters. Also, the free verse is written in first person so it really put me into the mindset of each character and I struggled with them as they felt each new heartbreak and disappointment and at the end I was yelling at the characters for their decisions. Another big bonus is that I have never read a free verse book like this anywhere before! Other than just being drawn into the story, free verse changes the way the read with shorter lines making you stop more frequently and making each savory detail hang just that much longer in your mind before you begin the next line. As an added bonus the free verse style sometimes holds double meanings such as the one above where you can read it as a whole or read just the right side for a whole new meaning! This has become my new favorite writing style and I am clamoring to read more of Ellen Hopkins’ books because of it.

But wait! I want you to know that, in the end not everything is hopeless. I will not tell you what happens to all the different teens you will meet in this book, but I will tell you that some of these teens do get out. For example, things happen in Eden’s story which eventually allows her to meet people who help her to get into a group home.  I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Tricks by Ellen Hopkins today or borrow it from your local library; you will NOT be disappointed, I promise you that.

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