Friday, 25 March 2011

Review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Dear Blog,
I know my blog has been kind of dead lately, and for that I'm sorry. Outside of string ensembles and guitar orchestras I don't really have a life, so you'd expect I would have plenty of time for blogging, but the rest of my free time seems to be sucked away by Goodreads and Ravelry  other bits and pieces that appear out of nowhere.

Summary (from Goodreads): Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital is a place for people who have played the ultimate endgame. The suicide attempt survivors portrayed in this novel tell starkly different stories, but these three embattled teens share a desperate need for a second chance. Ellen Hopkins, the author of Glass and Crank, presents another jarring, ultimately uplifting story about young people crawling back from a precipice.

Review: You should know this by now, dear blog; I cannot get enough of Ellen Hopkins' novels.  The four that I've read have been so intense and hard-hitting that I finish them feeling all exhilarated and shocked.
But be warned: they aren't for the faint-hearted.  They're full of contemporary issues that make you think that Melinda in Speak has it easy.  Impulse is no different. The story begins narrated by some unknown narrator; one of the characters, or someone else entirely, you don't know.  The first of the characters to be directly introduced is Conner, who has ended up in Aspen Springs after trying to shoot himself following the end of an affair with a teacher. Soon afterwards, Tony is introduced; before he came to Aspen Springs he was among other things living on the streets and selling his body for drugs. Last but not least, there's Vanessa- a cutter with a dark secret.  When the three of them meet, their lives change in ways they could never have expected.

I think it's kind of impossible to properly dislike any of the characters, with the situations they're in and how vividly their thoughts and actions come off the page. That doesn't mean, however, that I liked them. Conner, for instance, was a complete train wreck of a character who seemed to be having the hardest time of the three emotionally.  I would have disliked the idea of him, nay, I do.  A rich boy who allegedly has it all but is struggling under the surface seems to be done so often nowadays, and his relationships and attitudes towards the other characters didn't really make me warm to him either.  He was also the character that didn't change or develop at all throughout the novel.
But I couldn't really dislike him. I just felt sorry for him, I suppose, just experienced his emotions so vividly it was hard to be like, "Ugh, just be likeable." So much as  "Confront your parents. Tell them how you feel.  Just speak to somebody." 
 I wanted to slap his parents.  Oh, how I hated them *insert scowling gif here*. So, I must have wanted the best for him if I felt that way. 

Tony was probably the character that I found both most likeable and the one with the most interesting story to tell; but as with all the characters I had to kind of piece together his story; nothing was really revealed straight out.  He was witty, observant, kind; He deserved happiness and a relationship with Vanessa (though I don't think Vanessa deserved him, if that makes any sense). 
Speaking of Vanessa; I thought she fell somewhere between the two of them.  I found it pretty hard to really sympathise with her, mostly because her thoughts often felt like she was keeping the reader at a distance...almost cold, in a way.  But conversely, her actions, and her emotions, seemed vivid; like how she felt when things were "blue", for instance. 

As for plot; this is one of those books where there isn't really a very distinct storyline; It's very much  a character-driven novel.  The writing style was slightly confusing at times; the narrative shifts every three or four poems or so, and often the three voices weren't very distinct and I ended up being like, for example, "Wait, but, Vanessa's the narrator at the moment isn't she?  Hmm, maybe not." quite often.   Still, it's great poetry- or rather, verse.  It flows like poetry, but it isn't really- it's too unsettling, too clever, too unusual and clear to really fit in amongst another of the YA free-verse books I devour so.

This is one of those books where I can't really talk about the ending, because it's so...yeah.  It's more closed and more obvious a conclusion than, say, Burned; but  more shocking and sudden and aaaargh.  For some of the characters, things end well; for others things are worse than when they first entered the story. And the last sentence; for a lack of a better, more professional word: Omigod. It is the conclusion to all conclusions, the most powerful and final last couple of lines I've read for months, probably.  
It's a good thing, then, that a companion novel, Perfect, is coming out in the autumn. I can't wait for another installment set in that same world, where among other people Conner's twin sister Cara takes centre stage. We'll see.

In three words: haunting, dark, riveting.
Recommended for: Mature teenagers.
Rating: 4


  1. Looks good, I'll have to check it out.

  2. I recently read Crank which I really enjoyed so I'll definitely be checking this one out. Thanks for sharing a great review.


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