Book explores teen’s dark impulses

“Impulse” by Ellen Hopkins started as a random purchase in the teen fiction section.

The well known saying of “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” did not prevent me from buying this book because the description seemed right up my alley.

Another reason I was drawn to the book was because of the poetic placement of words on the page.

Hopkins uses lyric poetry to connect all of the themes and stories of the characters.

The entire last line, or an underlying theme, connects the emotional stories of Vanessa, Tony and Connor.

All three have different demons to face during their recovery at Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted to commit suicide.

Suicide is a hard topic because it’s difficult to understand why people are driven that far from life.

Hopkins uses the characters to describe different home situations and emotional problems that have contributed to what some might consider a “downfall” for these teenagers.

She allows the reader to experience the pain that they are dealing with on a personal level that allows everyone a glimpse into the mind of someone suffering so horribly that death is the last resort.

The character of Vanessa is enthralling to me because the issue that she is dealing with in the book is very close to my heart.

From an outside perspective, Vanessa seems to be beautiful and smart (which she is) – but there’s more to her than meets the eye.

She had been using self-mutilation as a coping mechanism for secrets she wasn’t ready to address.

Her mother has been in and out of her life since she was a child because of her battle with bipolar disorder.

She was not treated with medication for her mental illness and went insane.

Vanessa loves her little brother dearly but knows that she has made a negative impact on his life by cutting too deeply on a routine wound.

Her story starts off with her brother finding her bleeding profusely in the bathroom of her grandparent’s house, where she and her brother reside because their father is in the armed services.

Vanessa has seen the damage that can be done by suffering from bipolar disorder and is hesitant to admit that she has the same issue.

While hiding her mental illness from everyone including her grandmother, who has also watched the downfall of Vanessa’s mother, she uses cutting as a temporary release to deal with her pain.

After being sent to Aspen Springs, she meets Tony, a man struggling with his sexual identity.

Tony has been addicted to pills throughout his teenage years to deal with the lack of affection from his father.

Tony always keeps faith that a healthy relationship is possible.

The story becomes even more interesting when Tony begins to doubt his status as gay and his feelings for Vanessa begin to evolve.

It was through the experience of recovery that he found the love of his life; someone who would never let him down because she understands the pain associated with absence of a parent or loved one who is supposed to love unconditionally but cannot.

Connor seems to be the perfect golden boy.

Hopkins describes his family like glass – “perfectly formed, expensive, cold, fragile, and millions of tiny cracks, nearly imperceptible individually can be hidden, but left untreated they eventually lead to a complete breakdown.”

Connor has always had a love for older women, thanks to the woman who molested him when he was just entering his teenage years.

He falls in love with his teacher, a women named Emily who lived across the street with her husband, and she falls for Connor as well.

They pursue a sexual relationship and when their secret is exposed, she loses her job and he loses his composure.

He takes a shotgun to his chest and tries to end his life.

Connor struggles with accepting that perfection is an unattainable goal.

His parents have pushed him to participate in sports and go to an Ivy League college because they have a reputation to uphold.

His story will resonate with anyone who has ever doubted that they are good enough, even good enough to deserve the love and affection that we all need for a healthy mental outlook.