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Book Review: Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

Three teens share their stories in this verse novel.  All three teens have connections to one another through their parents’ family relationships.  As the adults in their lives become more focused on their own issues, the lives of these three teens begin to change.  Mikayla is crazy in love with her boyfriend Dylan and will make some choices that lead to tough consequences.  Shane is struggling with coming out and his first love all while his little sister dies.  Meanwhile, Harley is young, impressionable, and looking for acceptance.

As I’m not a Hopkins fan, I didn’t go into this one with much in the way of expectations, but I still left feeling sort of let down.  I understand the appeal of Hopkins–and know she has a great deal of crossover between adults and teens, but this companion novel to one of her adult titles fell flat for me.  However, it’s a quick read, and her fans are likely to enjoy it, as it is a page-turner to be sure.

The first noticeable thing about this particular offering was that it wasn’t as stylistically sharp as some of her previous works.  Something about this one felt rushed–and not in a good way.  While the pacing is quick and the drama is high, there are so many issues packed into this already overstuffed verse-novel that it begins to feel sudsy before it ever really gets off the ground.

There’s also the issue of narration.  While the book alternates between its three main narrators (which might be too many already), it also allows other characters to have a page or two to tell their own stories.  This gives the entire novel a watered-down feel and lessens the impact of the tragedies greatly.  It all starts to feel like too much, and then it is too much, and this reader didn’t care anymore about the outcomes.

The sparse verse works better for characters who are removed from the world in which they live (as in some of Hopkins’s previous works), but here it feels ill-matched with the narratives.  The characters here are angry and bored, and it wasn’t long before the reader starts to feel those things, too.  There’s an emotional disconnect that doesn’t feel intentional.

At any rate, it’ll work for some teens, especially those who like their verse novels dark and full of hot-button issues.  It’ll probably turn some teens onto her adult fiction (including Triangles, which tells this story from the mothers’ perspectives).

Not a standout for me, but there’s certainly a lot of appeal here for teen readers.

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins. Margaret K. McElderry Books: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.