Tricks is Ellen Hopkins’s new book that delves into the under ground world of teenage prostitution. Like her other books, this one is gritty, unflinching, and utterly remarkable for how it portrays a topic that isn’t well documented in mainstream media but one that may truly resonate with many (* more on that in a second).
Hopkins’s books are all written in verse and she makes many patterns within the verse layout that add layers and depth at the page level, as opposed to the textual level. Her writing is flawless and her development of five unique characters — all of whom grow up in very different circumstances but all come together in the world of teenage prostitution in Las Vegas — is so well done. I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels or novels in verse because of what a huge task it is to accurately develop multiple voices and characters well. Fortunately, Hopkins is a master at this.
I’m not a grit lit appreciater. I’ll be honest in writing that this wasn’t one of my favorite books. However, I really loved the writing style and found myself compelled to finish the story. I wanted to see how well the characters were weaved and how the verse really draws you to the conclusions of five characters for whom you have sympathy because of crummy circumstances. This is a book I would undoubtedly recommend to those who love gritty books or appreciate interesting writing approaches. It’s not for the weak of heart or people who aren’t comfortable reading about drugs, drinking, dysfunction, sex, or any other similar topic. There are no good parents and there are few happily ever afters, but Hopkins wrote Tricks with other goals in mind.
As I alluded to, there is a greater reason for Hopkins writing this book. She includes a short author’s note at the end about how teenage prostitution is a largely unseen but significant problems in America (yes, America and not just the “third world”). Tricks is meant to give voice to those who don’t have one and it’s meant to explore what could lead teenagers into this dangerous world. I’m really glad this note came at the end of the book, rather than as a preface, because it made me reflect on the story and “get it.” There’s a story here and there’s a greater purpose; this is something that I appreciate and could see being a really important book for teens to read. Hopkins is not only talented, but she is committed to making an impact on the lives of teenagers, and I think she’s going to hit a home run with this one.