Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 672 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
By Alyssa Pimentel, Courier School News Editor
Ellen Hopkins, known for her books that are structured like poems, has another great read, Impulse.
Before opening to the first page of the novel, Hopkins already sets up an attention grabber on the book’s back cover. The first words a reader sees are,
on your impulse,
swallow the bottle,
cut a little deeper,
put the gun to your chest.”
Those simple five lines summarized the basic plot line of a 688-page book. But there is so much more to the book. Impulse focuses on three teenagers, Tony, Vanessa and Conner, who lived a life so painful and traumatic that it led them to Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital, locked up because of their previous actions. All three of them, in one form or another, harmed themselves.
Tony took to pills to forget his childhood. Vanessa could not resist the temptation of cutting. Conner tried to kill himself with a bullet through the heart but missed. Three different lives outlined in the five lines given above.
The book switches point of view between the three characters every few pages while the story seamlessly continues. Through each point of view, each individual’s background was established. From the person’s personality to their inner thoughts, it is all exposed. You learn what events in their lives led to such drastic actions while observing what is going on in their current time.
In this time, all three ended up becoming friends. They almost immediately established a bond that was beneficial for each individual. Through this bond, it helped ease their troubles with therapy sessions, program levels of Aspen Springs and inadequate medications. They had each other to help get through their past demons that kept haunting them no matter how much progress they have made, friends who did not judge once their past was revealed.
A distinct similarity that bonded them all was their need to have people they could truly call as friends who did not label them as “psycho” or “freak” because they understood how life could be so painful at that moment in time that they looked for extreme physical releases from their emotional state.
Through Aspen Springs, each individual was supposed to have learned how to deal with the problematic outside world and the people in it without wanting to go back to their bad habits. Though medicated, they were supposed to be “normal,” in the sense that they could cope with whatever they were going through. If Level Five, being highest of all the levels, was completed then they were released to go back to their old lives, but as a changed person.
This book, with its many twists and turns, is a must-read. Its heart-wrenching story will keep you turning the page, wanting more. Though it might be difficult at times to keep track of which story belonged to which narrator, such confusion does not hinder comprehension of the novel as a whole.