Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

In her characteristic hard-hitting style, Hopkins weaves together the storylines of four high-schoolers, all striving to achieve that elusive quality: perfection. Sean is a phenomenal athlete, set on going to Stanford to play baseball, but believes he needs steroids to get the performance he wants. Kendra will do anything to achieve her modeling dream, including starve herself to emaciation. Cara wants to escape her parents’ demanding standards – standards which drove her brother, Conner, to attempt suicide. Andre dreams of becoming a dancer, but can’t find a way to make that profession fit into his parents’ expectations of corporate greatness. During their last year of high school, these teens find their goal of perfection tested to the max, and everything they thought was truth to be questioned. What they do with their new perceptions of reality will shape the rest of their lives, as they must answer: what does perfection really mean?

This book is the second in Hopkins’ Impulse series. While it received many positive reviews, I was largely unimpressed. Don’t get me wrong — it was good! It just wasn’t great. This is my third Hopkins novel, and so I think the constant heavy issues are starting to become predictable for me. I understand that not every teenager has the picture-perfect life, and that many teens do experience the issues Hopkins writes about. But I’m at the point with her books now that I pick them up expecting the worst possible things to happen, they do, and I’m bored. Making bad things happen all the time can be just as boring and predictable as making good things happen all the time. I’d just like a little variety. That said, if you’re a Hopkins fan, this won’t disappoint. If you haven’t read Hopkins, make sure you prepare for some seriously heavy issues and a non-neat ending. Check out the flags if you’re not sure this is a book for you.

Rating: 3/5

*YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2011
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.
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Hidden by Helen Frost

As an eight-year-old, Wren Abbott is unknowingly kidnapped by a man who steals her mother’s car while Wren is hiding in the backseat. Wren spends several days trapped in the man’s garage, secretly aided by his daughter, Darra. Wren escapes, and believes the ordeal is behind her; however, six years later, Darra and Wren re-enter each other’s lives at a summer camp. Through Frost’s powerful verse, the two must confront their shared past, and discover that long-believed “truths” may not be exactly as them seem.

This book was incredible! Frost’s verse is flowing and powerful, sucking you in from the very first page. Plus, the plot-line is amazing — girl is kidnapped and then happens to run into the daughter of her kidnapper at summer camp? Very dramatic. I especially like that Frost lets you see how things unfold from both characters’ points of view — there is no clear “right” or “wrong”. It’s all gray matter. You’re free to interpret every detail exactly as you’d like.

The novel is short. Too short, in my opinion. I definitely wanted more — more back-story, more about what happens after the “ending”, more poems! However, it’s short length does make for an extremely quick read, so if you’re not a fan of long books, this one is definitely for you. You’ll read it in one sitting!

*VOYA “Perfect 10’s” List, 2012

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis, including flags and SPOILERS, click here.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

 

Told using free-verse, first-person narrative poetry, Hopkins relates the disturbing story of twins, Raeanne and Kayleigh, sisters plagued by a dark family secret. Following an alcohol-related car accident when the girls were young, the twins witness the dissolution of their family life, and the beginning of abuse. Each twin deals with the trauma in her own way – Kayleigh with denial, and Raeanne with rebellion – but the two must come together in the end to overcome their demons.

This is the kind of book that hits you straight in the face, no holds barred, no apologies. It’s incredibly heavy — like, really heavy — so if you have difficulty reading stories about family or child abuse, you may want to use caution with this one. The story of the twins literally haunted me for days – my stomach stayed in knots even after I finished reading. Hopkins is an amazing writer — her characters slide right off the page and into your life, and her stories refuse to loosen their grip on you. This book is no exception. I read it almost in one sitting, and could NOT stop thinking about it. Hopkins uses poetry to tell the narrate the novel, which only makes it more addictive to read. It’s simple, but doesn’t hold back. The twist in the novel took me completely by surprise — not easy to do! This is definitely not the book for you if you want a “warm fuzzy” read, but it is an incredible journey you won’t soon forget.

Rating: 5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.