Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. Print.
Hopkins, Ellen. Perfect. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. Print.
images from: ellenhopkins.com
These are companion books. While Impulse tells Conner's, Tony's and Vanessa's stories, Perfect tells the stories of what's happening "back home" while Conner is at Aspen Springs. It was interesting when the two stories "merged."
In Impulse, Conner tries to commit suicide. This brings him to Aspen Springs where he meets Tony, a gay boy with a drug problem, and Vanessa, a girl who cuts herself to cope with her life.
True to Hopkins' books, these three characters' stories are not always easy to read. Hopkins uses the novel in verse format to relate the stories. Once the layers begin peeling away, the reader understands why these three have ended up in Aspen Springs. It reinforces the idea that appearances are not always as they seem, and judgments should not be assumed.
Late in the book, during a segment of Tony's story, he describes Vanessa, "She's incredible, not that she's perfect. But you once said imperfections create character" (Hopkins 607). I thought this was not only foreshadowing the next book (and at the time, I thought the sequel would be more about Tony's and Vanessa's emerging love story), but a good life mantra.
I was shocked at the end of Conner's story and couldn't wait to start reading Perfect.
When I began reading this "other side of the story," I realized that the timeline is concurrent with Impulse.
In this installment, we meet Cara, Conner's (perfect) twin. Her boyfriend Sean is addicted to steroids and her best friend Kendra is starving herself to become "perfect." Kendra's sister Jenna has wild behavior, including dating Andre a rich, black kid who wants to dance (thereby upsetting his parents' expectations).
The title reference of this book appears many times, as each character is striving to become "perfect." I liked that Andre realizes what being perfect really is. "She is pretty, and perfect in her own way, because she knows who she is and doesn't pretend to be anyone else. Doesn't care who she pleases, as long as she is good with herself, and what else really matters? (Hopkins 598).
I noticed that Sean's poems were like a double poem. The first column created its own poem. This fits as he's struggling with who he is and who he is while doping. Then I noticed that Andre's and Kendra's stories also did this double poem effect. Very clever, Ellen Hopkins! I also saw a pattern that sometimes one character's ending lines is how the next character's story began.
Again, these characters' stories are not always easy to read. There are two rapes in this book; one resulting in a stalking situation and the other resulting in a horrific beating and the girl being left to die. However, I also think there's a thread of hope in all these stories. I hope teenagers will see themselves and try to learn from these fictional characters' experiences instead of having their own similar experiences.
These characters are real with real struggles. I'm glad that Hopkins tackles this true life scenarios without judgement. Her author's note at the end of the book should reach kids.