Vromans: Pasadena, CA
November 20, 2012
November 20, 2012
I had the pleasure of attending Ellen Hopkins’s author event while she was touring Southern California for her newest adult release Collateral that just came out November 6, 2012. One of her tour stops included my favorite independent bookstore Vromans in Pasadena, CA that holds an amazing selection of books and hosts author events throughout the year.
Ellen Hopkins was such an easy going and entertaining person to meet. I love how she interacted with her audience and how truly excited she was to spend some time talking about her books and her inspiration. She started off by reading from Collateral and shared some updates on her projects. She then ended with taking questions from the crowd.
When asked if the people she interviews for her books have a hard time opening up, she shared that despite the hard topics she tackles, the people she interviews really seem to reveal their feelings and experiences quite easily. Regardless of the somber themes that transpire in her writing, they are a true reflection of real life scenarios and accounts that she’s been exposed to during her field research.
She also shared that her inspiration has always been around writing poetry; and it’s no surprise that her writing style centers around verse. It’s this narrative technique that allows Ellen the ability to catapult the reader into her characters’ lives. However, for each of her books, she tends to experiment with structure, whether it be past and present tense flow or alternating perspectives.
She offered some helpful advice for young writers, which included that writing and publishing your books takes lots of patience. She also advised writers to cross genres and make it a practice to write every day. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, she recommended changing your setting and going somewhere new to write.
Lastly, it was interesting to hear some of her favorite authors. For example, for adult literature she enjoys Stephen King, John Irving and Gillian Flynn. When it comes to YA, she’s a fan of Michelle Hodkin, Veronica Rossi and Laurie Anderson to name a few.
Since this event, I've had the pleasure of enjoying Collateral and I've included my review as well as a chance to win a signed copy of the book. Enjoy!
Collateral by Ellen Hopkins
Published November 6th 2012 by Atria Books
About the book
Written in Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral centers on Ashley, an MFA student at San Diego State University. She grew up reading books and never dreamed she would become a military wife. One night she meets a handsome soldier named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man. He’s passionate and romantic. He even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a professor with similar pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.
“You can’t patrol unfriendly villages without embracing paranoia. You can’t watch your battle buddies blown to bits without jonesing for revenge. You can’t take a blow to the helmet without learning to duck… Paranoia. Revenge. Bloodlust. These things turn boys into men. But what kind of men?”
As of late, I’ve found myself attracted to books that center on the recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s these themes that seem to remind me about the things I tend to take for granted… our freedom, our sense of security, and our ability to live our lives with little to no sense of danger, which comes at the sacrifice of our service men and women. When you combine these elements and couple it with the devastating effect war has on our troops, it calls for an emotional and gut punching experience. And that is a small snippet of what Collateral has to offer.
I have to say, I’m excited to see more authors tackling this tender subject. However, to take a bold step in giving us a glimpse into the lives of these soldiers after they come home is a courageous and awe-inspiring move. To deliver an honest portrayal that shares the pain, struggle and damaging results in such a brutal yet realistic manner leaves me breathless and contemplative for quite some time.
Collateral is a story about Ashley Patterson who is attending San Diego State University. The book takes a glimpse into her undergraduate and graduate years, while she struggles to maintain a relationship with her boyfriend Cole Gleason who is serving as a Marine. Through four deployments and countless months and weeks apart, Ashley knows one thing for certain, she loves her Marine and will wait for however long it takes to see him home and start a life with him. However, war has its harsh realities and to delude yourself that these men and women come back unscathed is ignoring a painful possibility. When Ashley slowly yet surely sees how Cole’s deployments change him as a person, she has to face the fact that the person she loved is not the same person returning home from the war.
Overall, I have to say that Ellen Hopkins’s decision to write this story in verse was an absolute brilliant move. It led for a concise, yet powerful portrayal of one girl’s struggle to hold on to the person she fell in love with and try to bring him back in some semblance of who he once was. There were moments in the story that I wanted to send Ashley a distress signal, but as life will dictate, love is blind and war destroys people on both sides of the fence.
Collateral is my first novel by Ellen Hopkins and most definitely not my last. Her ability to tap into my emotional psyche and alter my reality map left me floored with what she’s able to deliver. This book is awesome and I hope people will give it a try. I was hooked from the first passage and it held my attention and heart through the very end. Brilliant piece of work by an author that’s carved her mark on my bookshelf.
“Be smart, be safe, and if those two things fail, I’ve got your back.”
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