Impulse

Impulse

4.6 802
by Ellen Hopkins
     
 

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Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

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Overview

Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.

And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.

In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun — and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other's help, they can find their way to a better life — but only if they're strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Hopkins (Crank) weaves together the story of three troubled teens locked up in a psychological facility after suicide attempts, once again writing in artful free verse. Each character is full-bodied and distinct. Conner is a wealthy overachiever who had an affair with a teacher; Tony, who thinks he is gay, was locked up in juvenile detention center for years after killing his mother's child-molesting boyfriend; Vanessa is a manic-depressive who cuts herself to "hush the demons/ shrieking inside my brain." All three have attempted suicide. As they begin to open up to their counselor—and each other—they reveal an almost unbelievable amount of grittiness in their backgrounds. Vanessa, for example, found her own mother dying after an overdose and did not call for an ambulance, and had a boyfriend who "wouldn't even hold/ my hand" while she was waiting to have an abortion. But readers will find themselves invested in the characters by the time the three head to their outdoor challenge—the final piece of their program—and can finally divulge their darkest secrets to one another (Tony and Vanessa even form an unexpected romance). This is a thick book, but the free verse makes for a fast read. By book's end, readers may well feel the effects of each protagonist's final choice. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Jing Cao
Impulse delivers a riveting, fast-paced story of teenage hurt and healing through the power of poetry. All characters reveal new secrets until the end, drawing readers into their compelling stories. Hopkins grapples with a veritable smorgasbord of loaded issues in her story, but seems to want to cover too much. At times, characters come perilously close to becoming sob-story cliches, or caricatures of angst, though Hopkins always manages to save the plot with a new turn of events. Not for the weak of heart, this book confronts many of adolescence's darkest issues with warmth, humor, and gravity.
VOYA - Diane Emge Colson
Connor shoots himself in the chest, Vanessa slices through the flesh on her wrist, and Tony downs a lethal combination of Valium and Jack Daniels. All three teens were thwarted in their suicide attempts by timely rescues and now find themselves residents of a mental health facility. Each one has a gritty, pain-filled backstory. Connor is a gorgeous overachiever with icy parents and a broken, illicit love affair. Tony, who believes himself to be gay because he has only had sex with men, was sent to a juvenile detention center at the age of eight. Vanessa is tormented by her mother's mental illness even as she finds herself plunging through the same desperate highs and lows. They form a triangle of friendship, with undertones of sexual attraction, that carries them through the various stages of their treatment programs, culminating with the outdoor hiking adventure called the Challenge. As in Hopkins's other novels, Crank (Simon & Schuster, 2004/VOYA February 2005) and Burned (Margaret K. McElderry/S & S, 2006/VOYA June 2006), this story is written in free verse, with each teen trading off as narrator. It is a very long book, despite much white space on each page. Hopkins does a good job of feeding the reader a steady stream of shocking revelations, but sometimes the detail drags against the drama. The classroom scenes, for example, read like unbidden political messages. It is also difficult to get a real sense of each teen's character beyond his or her life circumstances, because the narrative voice varies little from one teen to another. Nevertheless readers seeking an understanding of teen suicide will surely appreciate this penetrating exploration of the topic.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2007: Deciding whether poetry, especially freeform poetry, is good is so subjective. One is tempted to dismiss a thick YA novel written in such a form as pretentious. On the other hand, narrative poetry has a long tradition in English and may appeal to YA readers in a way that a page of dense prose might not. This poetry tends to have lines six to eight syllables long and line breaks in inexplicable places. Yet the story becomes intensely compelling. Three teenagers who have tried in various ways and for various reasons to commit suicide find themselves committed to a mental hospital: Connor, who, in the manner of Edward Cory, seems to be everyone's definition of a golden boy; Tony, who is convinced he's a homosexual because all he's ever known is abuse; and Vanessa, who cuts herself to find relief from oppressive guilt. In spite of the vast differences between them, the three come together as best friends and perhaps something more. This is the story of their struggle towards mental health and a sense of their own value in the world. Their journey ends on a wilderness camping adventure, which is to be the capstone experience of their treatment. Only two of them make it out alive. The three voices take turns narrating, each offering a perspective on their pasts and developing relationships. The ending is both sad and a little too satisfactory, sort of like The Breakfast Club in print. Young people will enjoy this book, though. The characters are relevant and interesting and the story gives readers an opportunity to dip below surface appearances. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
Three teens tell their stories, in free verse, from a psychiatric hospital after failed suicide attempts. Their lives unfold in alternating chapters, revealing emotionally scarred family relationships. An absent father, a bipolar mother, and a secret abortion have caused Vanessa to slash her wrists. As a compulsive cutter, she hides a paper clip to dig into her skin. Tony's drug overdose was triggered by an addiction in which he exchanged sex for money. Abused as a child, he is confused about his sexuality. Connor is the son of rich, controlling parents, and he survives a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a doomed affair with a female teacher. Initially, the narrators are inwardly focused, having arrived at "level zero," the beginning of their treatment. As they become acquainted with one another, the story, told in spare verse and colorful imagery, becomes more plot-driven and filled with witty dialogue. Both boys value Vanessa's friendship and there is an inkling of competition for her affection, although she assumes that Tony is gay. During a wilderness camping trip with other patients and staff, which would graduate the trio to the final level of treatment, it becomes apparent that one of them is mentally backsliding at the thought of returning home and has stopped taking meds. The consequences are played out, leaving the others to grapple with an additional loss and a newfound appreciation for life. Mature fans of the verse format will devour this hefty problem novel.
—Vicki ReutterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In sharp, searing free verse divided into two-page chapters, Hopkins sketches three adolescents who have just attempted suicide. Vanessa (razors), Tony (drugs) and Conner (gun) tried to "close out / the ugliness, close / out the filthiness, / close out all light." They begin treatment at Aspen Springs residential center in pits of numb despair, unhappy to have failed and lacking human connection. The therapists broach some psychological issues, but Aspen Springs is more behavioral than psychiatric, awarding levels of privilege for acts of progress. Each distinct first-person story slowly reveals its grim secrets, stinging from start to finish. The origins that the text identifies for Tony's sexuality prevent his being a standard-bearer for gayness in literature, but the three main characterizations ring true. There's a tiny place for love here, but readers familiar with Hopkins' Burned (2006) or with signs of serious depression will anticipate the tragic ending. A fast, jagged, hypnotic read. (Fiction. YA)
Booklist
“A riveting, fast-paced story of teenage hurt and healing.”
—VOYA
From the Publisher
“Readers [Laura] Flanagan, Jeremy Guskin, and Steve Coombs bring credible resonance to the respective characters.”
Booklist

“Readers Laura Flanagan, Jeremy Guskin, and Steve Coombs tap into the raw, overwhelmed feelings of abused adolescents and deliver such an honest performance that it’s startling. They perform with a visceral complexity and perfect timing that are nothing short of masterful.”
AudioFile

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416903574
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
05/20/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
688
Sales rank:
43,391
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.80(d)
Lexile:
HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


Without Warning

Sometimes

you're traveling

a highway, the only road

you've ever known,

and wham! A semi

comes from nowhere

and rolls right over you.

Sometimes

you don't wake up.

But if you happen

to, you know things

will never be

the same.

Sometimes

that's not

so bad.

Sometimes

lives intersect,

no rhyme, no reason,

except, perhaps,

for a passing semi.

Triad

Three

separate highways

intersect at a place

no reasonable person

would ever want to go.

Three

lives that would have

been cut short, if not

for hasty interventions

by loved ones. Or Fate.

Three

people, with nothing

at all in common

except age, proximity,

and a wish to die.

Three

tapestries, tattered

at the edges and come

unwoven to reveal

a single mutual thread.

The Thread

Wish

you could turn off

the questions, turn

off the voices,

turn off all sound.

Yearn

to close out

the ugliness, close

out the filthiness,

close out all light.

Long

to cast away

yesterday, cast

away memory,

cast away all jeopardy.

Pray

you could somehow stop

the uncertainty, somehow

stop the loathing,

somehow stop the pain.

Conner

Arrival

The glass doors swing open,

in perfect sync, precisely

timed so you don't have

to think. Just stroll right in.

I doubt it's quite as easy

to turn around and walk

back outside, retreat to

unstable ground. Home turf.

An orderly escorts me down

spit-shined corridors, past

tinted Plexiglas and closed,

unmarked doors. Mysteries.

One foot in front of the other,

counting tiles on the floor so

I don't have to focus the blur

of painted smiles, fake faces.

A mannequin in a tight blue

suit, with a too-short skirt

(and legs that can wear it),

in a Betty Boop voice halts us.

I'm Dr. Boston. Welcome to

Aspen Springs. I'll give you

the tour. Paul, please take his

things to the Redwood Room.

Aspen Springs. Redwood Room.

As if this place were a five-star

resort, instead of a lockdown

where crazies pace. Waiting.

At Least

It doesn't have a hospital

stink. Oh yes, it's all very

clean, from cafeteria chairs

to the bathroom sink. Spotless.

But the clean comes minus

the gag-me smell, steeping

every inch of that antiseptic

hell where they excised

the damnable bullet. I

wonder what Dad said when

he heard I tried to put myself

six feet under -- and failed.

I should have put the gun

to my head, worried less

about brain damage, more

about getting dead. Finis.

Instead, I decided a shot

through the heart would

make it stop beating, rip

it apart to bleed me out.

I couldn't even do that

right. The bullet hit bone,

left my heart in one piece.

In hindsight, luck wasn't

with me that day. Mom

found me too soon, or my

pitiful life might have ebbed

to the ground in arterial flow.

I thought she might die too,

at the sight of so much blood

and the thought of it staining

her white Armani blouse.

Conner, what have you done?

she said. Tell me this was just

an accident. She never heard

my reply, never shed a tear.

I Don't Remember

Much after that, except

for speed. Ghostly red lights,

spinning faster and faster,

as I began to recede from

consciousness. Floating

through the ER doors,

frenzied motion. A needle's

sting. But I do remember,

just before the black hole

swallowed me, seeing Mom's

face. Her furious eyes

followed me down into sleep.

It's a curious place, the

Land of Blood Loss and

Anesthesia, floating through it

like swimming in sand. Taxing.

After a while, you think you

should reach for the shimmering

surface. You can't hold your

breath, and even if you could,

it's dark and deep and bitter

cold, where nightmares and truth

collide, and you wonder if death

could unfold fear so real. Palpable.

So you grope your way up into

the light, to find you can't

move, with your arms strapped

tight and overflowing tubes.

And everything hits you like

a train at full speed. Voices.

Strange faces. A witches' stewpot

of smells. Pain. Most of all,

pain.

Tony

Just Saw

A new guy check in. Tall,

built, with a way fine face,

and acting too tough to tumble.

He's a nutshell asking to crack.

Wonder if he's ever let a guy

touch that pumped-up bod.

They gave him the Redwood

Room. It's right across

from mine -- the Pacific

Room. Pretty peaceful in

here most of the time, long

as my meds are on time.

Ha. Get it? Most of the time

,

if my meds are on time. If you

don't get it, you've never

been in a place like this,

never hung tough from one

med call till the next.

Wasted. That's the only way

to get by in this "treatment

center." Nice name for a loony

bin. Everyone in here is crazy

one way or another. Everyone.

Even the so-called doctors.

Most of 'em are druggies.

Fucking loser meth freaks.

I mean, if you're gonna

purposely lose your mind,

you want to get it back some

day. Don't you? Okay, maybe not.

I Lost My Mind

A long time ago, but it

wasn't exactly my idea.

Shit happens, as they say,

and my shit literally hit

the fan. But enough sappy

crap. We were talking drugs.

I won't tell you I never tried

crystal, but it really wasn't

my thing. I saw enough

people, all wound up, drop

over the edge, that I guess

I decided not to take that leap.

I always preferred creeping

into a giant, deep hole where

no bad feelings could follow.

At least till I had to come up

for air. I diddled with pot first, but

that tasty green weed couldn't drag

me low enough. Which mostly

left downers, "borrowed" from

medicine cabinets and kitchen

cabinets and nightstands.

Wherever I could find them.

And once in a while -- not often,

because it was pricey and tough

to score -- once in a while, I

tumbled way low, took a ride

on the H train. Oh yeah,

that's what I'm talking about.

A hot shot clear to hell.

Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Hopkins

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