21 Sept 2014

REVIEW: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Impulse (Impulse #1)

Author: Ellen Hopkins
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Illness.
Publication Date: May 20th 2008
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 666
Rating: 5/5

Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act -- suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.

And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.

In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun -- and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other's help, they can find their way to a better life -- but only if they're strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

I never thought that this book, or any of Ellen Hopkins’ work, would be my sort of thing. As I’m sure most of you already know, Ellen Hopkins books are all written completely in verse. Let me admit something…I’m not the biggest fan of poetry- I like me some Seamus Heaney and John Keats but that’s pretty much where my experiences end. Therefore, the idea of reading a whole book, a 600 plus page book filled with verse seemed completely ludicrous to me. You might be wondering why I even picked up Impulse in the first place. I have a simple answer for this – I’m trying to read more widely, and while Impulse is still YA, obviously it’s quite different to my normal choice of books.

Anyway, moving on to the actual review now. As you may have guessed from that little spiel, I really wasn’t sure that I was going to like Impulse at all and I didn’t. I LOVED IT. Apart from the whole verse thing, the content isn’t something I’d usually go for – it’s incredibly dark, depressing and raw, and most of the books I read (no matter the genre) are usually lighter. 

I had a great childhood and family, so I’ve never experienced anything even remotely like what happens to the three characters in the book but the writing made me feel like I was there with them, watching them and going through similar stuff. It was both brilliant and completely terrifying. Each poem is incredibly beautiful but also haunting- I can’t even begin to describe it to someone who hasn’t read the book. They just made me feel every emotion possible- I could feel happy when they characters were feeling good and then the next minute I could feel like depression was weighing down on me. I just couldn’t stop reading.

I want to talk about the characters, obviously. There are the three main characters – Vanessa, Conner and Tony. They all have different voices, different problems but I felt connected to each of them. Like I said, I’ve never gone through anything like what they do but I felt like I could understand what they were feeling. Do you see what I mean about that being terrifying? I fell in love with each of the characters though- in an ‘I want to save you all and make you be happy and cuddle and love you forever’ kind of way. I’m not going to lie, sometimes they completely broke my heart and other times I wanted to scream at them for being such idiots, but I still loved them. I didn’t expect to grow close to any of them or to the story, but within a couple of pages I just did. I don’t think they’re easy characters to love at all or even like sometimes, but the writing just drew me in too much! 

I read the whole book within about 24 hours- ever time I had the chance to read, I picked it up and I think it only took me about three sittings to read. The thing was, the moment I opened the book and began to read I was completely sucked it- seriously, my house could have set fire and I wouldn’t have noticed. I just couldn’t believe how desperate I was to know how the story would end and where each of the characters would end up. I know I would have read it in the one sitting if my life allowed it – it was just that good. 

I hope somehow that my review convinces even just one of you to pick up the book, especially if you don’t think you’ll like a book entirely in verse. The subject of suicide, depression and other mental illnesses is such an important topic and sometimes I think it can be brushed over or not expressed well enough in books – I think this is a good example. It’s not a nice book, it’s not a pretty or happy story but it’s real and I think that’s all that really matters. So I urge you, please, please read this book- I don’t think you’ll regret it. If you have already read the book then I have two things for you, number one – please talk to me about that ending, I need to talk to somebody about THAT ending. Secondly, tell me which Ellen Hopkins book to read next because I need more of her in my life, desperately. I wish I had more to say in this review because I don’t think I even really begin to cover how amazing this is, but I can’t seem to put together actual coherent sentences anymore – the feels are just taking over my brain.

*Apologies for the crappy, blurry image of the cover - this was the best one I could find.


  1. I have yet to read an Ellen Hopkins novel. This sounds like a good one. Great review :)

  2. Ahhhh. Fantastic review, Ely. This book is already on my "elymademedoit" shelf, so you know I'll be picking this book up eventually - hopefully sooner rather than later. :)