Thursday, June 02, 2011

Review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

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.

First sentence:
you're traveling, the only road
you've ever known,
and wham!

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I loved the other books I've read by Ellen Hopkins and I'd heard a few people say this is their favorite of her novels, so I had pretty high expectations. And while Impulse isn't a bad book, I was just sort of disappointed.

I'll start with the good stuff, which is mainly the writing. Like in the other books I've read by Ellen Hopkins, the writing is incredible, rich and beautiful. The metaphors are amazing and so many of the statements thought-provoking.

The beginning was confusing for me - it was hard to distinguish Tony's, Conner's and Vanessa's voices. I found myself flipping backwards to see who was speaking several times. It got a little easier after a while, but the voices and characters still seemed too similar. They all attempted suicide and they're all loners, but the rest of their personalities should have been different. The way it is, I never really connected with any of the characters.

Another thing that annoyed me is how little the reader knows about the characters' problems until the end. Of course I understand that Ellen Hopkins couldn't have told us within the first few pages why they attempted suicide because there would have been no suspense, but finding out about some things so late in the book made it impossible for the reader to see how the characters dealt with their problems and how they grew as people. I didn't see all that much of a development.That made it really hard for me to understand the characters or connect to them.

The romance is strange as well. The love triangle and how all of the characters change who they like so quickly but still talk about their deep connection and love just isn't believable.

***This next paragraph contains spoilers about the ending!***
I was pretty bored reading the last 100 pages or so as there is no real plot or development other than descriptions of the Challenge, which I honestly didn't care all that much about. The ending woke me up again, though, going WHAT? I didn't get the ending at all. Because it was hard for me to distuinguish each character, I didn't really get what went wrong with Connor's development that didn't go wrong with Tony and Vanessa, other than that Conner stopped taking his meds. But if that's what the book comes down to - the message being "take your meds if you're depressed" - well, then, that's just too simple a message to make an interesting read.

Overall, a very disappointing read for me. Great writing, but asides from that not enjoyable, at least for me. The characters are not fully developed, making it hard for me to get into the story. If you haven't read anything by Ellen Hopkins, I wouldn't recommend starting with Impulse. Then again, I've heard lots of people say this is their favorite Ellen Hopkins, so what do I know - decide for yourself!

If you disagree with me and liked this book, please leave a comment and let me know what you liked about it - maybe you can change my mind! (Obviously, comments from those who agree with me or haven't read the book are welcome as well.)


  1. I read Impulse a few months ago and while I agree that it's not her best work, I didn't really hate it. I had never read a teen suicide novel where it wasn't about "life after they committed suicide" and more about the realities of what happens to you if you attempt it.

    I agree that there should have been more diversity between the characters and their voices, I was confused for the first half of the book too.

  2. I'm sad that you didn't like this one. Impulse was actually my favorite Ellen Hopkins book. I'm glad that you liked her other books though.

  3. Is it bad that I'm starting with this one? I already ordered it. From her other books, this one was the one that caught my attention the most. This will also be my first verse book. Ah!

  4. @mfay2: Well, personally, I didn't like this one as much as the other Ellen Hopkins books I've read, but everyone else I talk to seems to have Impulse as their favorite of her books - maybe it just didn't work for me. Since you've already ordered this one, you should probably read this one first. But if you don't like it and end up agreeing with me, you need to give Ellen Hopkins another chance with a different one of her books!


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