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Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
“When all choice is taken from you, life becomes a game of survival.”
This is the line that you will be greeted with on the inside flap of this book upon opening it. This is the line that will haunt you through all 625 pages of Tricks.
Ellen Hopkins’ sixth teen fiction novel parallels the lives of five teenagers: Eden Streit (an insane, overly-religious minister’s daughter sent to rehabilitation center for possessed youth), Seth Parnell ( a closet-gay farm boy who is forced to live a double life), Whitney Lang (a self-conscious girl living in the shadow of her seemingly perfect older sister), Ginger Cordell (a self-efficient girl who is forced to take care of five younger siblings because of an absent mother), and Cody Bennett (a kid who has a life of stability stolen from him and his family).
They all lead very different lives, but they all have one major thing in common: they are all teen prostitutes.
Some of them are tricked into the business while some are forced to turn to it as a means of survival, but none choose to live in the way they end up living towards the end of the book.
Tricks is written in free verse poetry, but when you read it, it all blends together to form sentences like a typical novel would. This structure makes for a unique way of organization and comprehension, which I believe makes the story more raw and lucid.
Throughout Tricks, Hopkins separates words from the stanzas in order to form sentences that reveal the subconscious of each character. For example, “why/ lie/ when/ truth is/ the easier path?” and “changing/ outside/ the same/ inside/ my face/ an illusion.”
Using this tool really helps to build strong and believable identities for the characters and makes the stories of each much better overall.
Tricks has an unshakable sense of loss and sadness throughout the story, which is not exactly resolved by the ending. Although for some that may be kind of depressing, I actually appreciated the uncensored reality it conveyed.
Hopkins also tackles some heavy topics, such as: prostitution, gambling addiction, drug abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, sexuality, homosexuality, rape, death, diseases, emotional issues, religion, family problems, depression, neglect, and many more.
Tricks is extremely interesting and held my attention every single second in reading it. I must warn you though, if you can’t handle heavily serious situations and behavior, this book is certainly not for you (nor are any of Hopkins’ other novels).
This book was very worthwhile and despite the 625 pages, the poetry made reading it both very simple and very quick.
Whether you are a devout fan of Ellen Hopkins’ novels or this is the first you’ve heard of her, if you’re considering reading Tricks at all, I would definitely encourage you to give it a go.
It gives you an insider’s look at extremely serious topics and shows you how and what the road to such terrible circumstances looks like.
I’d give Tricks a complete five out of five stars.