Ellen Hopkins, 2009
Five teenagers, all from different areas of the country, discover just how far they can fall when desperation leads them to trade or sell their bodies for sex.
The Goodreads discription is a little misleading,saying "What they don't expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words "I love you" are said for all the wrong reasons." This book isn't about the downfall of saying "I love you" when you're not ready. In fact, each and every one of the characters falls in love and says "I love you" at some point. But in only one case - Whitney - did falling in love lead directly to her fate. This book is not about saying "I love you" for the wrong reasons. This book is about desperation and what a person will do when the reach the point where they run out of options.
I really love Ellen Hopkins. I first discovered her writing with Crank, and before that I had mostly steered away from novels in verse. I had read a few, and even liked one or two, but mostly found the gimmick hard to get used to. But I think it really works for her stories. I think that pages and pages of prose would get overwhelming with her characters, and that the smaller pieces that she can get away with writing verse make her stories easier to read. Because, let's be honest, her stories can be tough to read sometimes. This one is no different. Five teenagers, all around fifteen or sixteen years old, selling their bodies for sex, is not a happy topic. And for many of the characters, how they got to that point isn't any easier to read.
I'll admit that, at first, I found this novel a little harder to follow than some of her other books. Out of the four that I had read prior to this one, the most point of view characters in a story was three (in Fallout). This one has five. I know this doesn't sound like a lot, but I'll admit that when the book would switch to a new chapter (and a new character), I sometimes had to go back to a previous chapter to remind myself which situation that character was in. Once the story really picked up, it was easier to tell them apart, because their tales branched off so differently, but at the beginning, when they were all still in high school and falling in love, I had trouble keeping Whitney, Ginger, and Eden apart. (Seth and Cody were a little bit easier, since Seth was gay and Cody was straight). So this did pull me out of the flow of the story a bit, having to remind myself who was who when each new chapter began.
I liked some characters more than others. Ginger, Eden, and Seth were much more sympathetic than Whitney and Cody, who really just made bad decisions. I'm not saying that the deserved what they got, but they did get there mostly through their own crappy choices. Seth, Eden and Ginger were more sympathetic, but still made bad decisions. Seth was kicked out of his home after his father found out he was gay, leaving him very few options. Since he became a kept man rather than a prostitute, his life was definitely the easiest of the five, but he also has the bleakest future at the end, which made me sad for him. I have a feeling that in the follow-up, Traffick, being published in November, his story might be one of the worst.
Ginger and Eden, however, were completely sympathetic characters. Ginger, who ran away from home with her girlfriend after getting raped - and finding out that her prostitute mother sold her off - turns to stripping in order to survive. It's her girlfriend, Alex, who takes it a little further. I respected Ginger's resolve, even if her choices weren't always the best, she had her rules and stood her ground. And Eden... poor, poor Eden. I can't say for sure that I would have gone as far as she did, but I think put in her situation, I at least would have seriously considered it. I found her, by far, the most sympathetic character in the book.
I'll definitely be reading Traffic as soon as it comes out - I'm very curious to see what becomes of these five teens. And I'll continue in my goal to read all of Ellen Hopkins books before the end of the year. I find her books fascinating, if a little draining. The only reason why I would still recommend starting with Crank, and not this one, is due only to the slightly higher level of difficulty in having to follow so many characters in this one. But if you enjoy Ellen Hopkins, and/or don't mind reading about tough situations, I do highly recommend any of her books, and Tricks is one of her best that I've read so far.