A Tribute to Ellen Hopkins
A young lady I’ll call Awesome X suggested I read Burned so I went and picked it up. When I saw it was a collection of poetry I wasn’t aching to read it. My favorite poets are Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath- and I can only handle reading them every once in a while. When I opened the fat, little book I was hooked on Hopkins. After she hooked me, she drug me back to my adolescent years on a violent and terrifying wave of brilliantly woven poetry that will always stay with me.
After I finished Burned I moved on to Crank, having needed a break after the last lines of the former echoed around inside my skull like a constant, death rattle. I can still see images of Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten’s Mormon father pounding his fists into her back over a sanitary napkin, roaring the words: “You will remember who I am.”
When she reached for the gun I almost suffocated.
It is horrifying.
What’s worse is that it’s real.
Now I’m halfway through Crank and I feel my adolescent self being forced back into the trenches once again. I know, you’re thinking- some best friend! Violence, drugs and the un-happily ever after… yes, well it’s no Twilight… because Ellen Hopkins writes for young adults.
Everything in her poetry embodies the true spirit in which young adult books should be styled after. I don’t mean in subject matter but in theme. Burned questions as teens do. It rebels, as teens do, it’s suicidal and horny as teens are, but most of all, it’s discovering who you are for yourself. It is character driven and the most stunning body of poetry I’ve ever read.
As a young adult novelist, I think anyone aspiring to write anything for young adults needs to read Hopkins. She is as vital as Judy Blume in this genre, and she reminded me why I truly love writing this genre.