Monday, May 16, 2011


Tricks, a 2009 novel in verse by author Ellen Hopkins . . . where do I begin? The review on Karin's Book Nook gives a quick summary of of the plot of this 600+ page work, which kept me at the edge of my seat. I could not put it down!

The story follows, in detail, the lives of five teens who have no parent who loves them enough, or is strong enough, to keep them safe. In the end, through different and dire circumstances, inexperience, and emotional need, they wind up as child prostitutes. Although I wished it were a fantasy, this isn't, and there is a hot line number, at the end, where real kids, with no safety net, can call for help. 911 will work as well.

This kids are at dead ends, don't know where to turn. In a poem entitled, A Poem by Ginger Cordell, Directions, we find this: I guess in someone else's world, parents are road maps,/ who tell you/ which way/ is the correct direction/ to travel. But without / a map, how/ do I / know the best route?

As children's authors, we learn that to write a good story, we have to get rid of the parents. Without those meddling, overprotective adults, characters can make their own decisions and in the end, solve their own problems. Our smart, capable protagonists discover they can fend for themselves and we enjoy seeing how they do it. The last thing we want is for a parent or other adult to rush in, magically, at the end and rescue them.

But this is just what we want as we read Tricks. In the end, one girl, Ginger, finds herself in a courtroom and returns to her grandmother after her abusive mother has died of AIDS. Another girl, Eden, is rescued by a priest. Sometimes problems are to difficult for even a smart, clever teen to resolve alone, especially broke, drug addicted and in the hands of the very worst adults. Rescue is the only way out.


  1. This is so true, Janice. As writers, we are taught to get rid of parents/guardians in our stories. TRICKS sounds like a nice addition to the YA genre. It's always important to have something fresh on bookshelves for teens and parents. I'll definitely read it.