by Ellen Hopkins


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Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Five troubled teenagers fall into prostitution as they search for freedom, safety, community, family, and love in this #1 New York Times bestselling novel from Ellen Hopkins.

“When all choice is taken from you, life becomes a game of survival.”

Five teenagers from different parts of the country. Three girls. Two guys. Four straight. One gay. Some rich. Some poor. Some from great families. Some with no one at all. All living their lives as best they can, but all searching…for freedom, safety, community, family, love. What they don’t expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words “I love you” are said for all the wrong reasons.

Five moving stories remain separate at first, then interweave to tell a larger, powerful story—a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up. A story about kids figuring out what sex and love are all about, at all costs, while asking themselves, “Can I ever feel okay about myself?”

A brilliant achievement from New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins—who has been called “the bestselling living poet in the country” by—Tricks is a book that turns you on and repels you at the same time. Just like so much of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416950073
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 08/25/2009
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 562,444
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.98(d)
Lexile: HL590L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen young adult novels, as well as the adult novels Triangles, Collateral, and Love Lies Beneath. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative. Visit her at and on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter at @EllenHopkinsLit.

Read an Excerpt


  • No, not at all. Andrew is pretty much

    perfect. Not gorgeous, not in a male

    model kind of way, but he is really cute,

    with crazy hair that sometimes hides

    his eyes, dark chocolate eyes that hold

    laughter, even when he’s deadly serious.

    He’s not a hunk, but toned, and tall enough

    to effortlessly tuck me under his arms,

    arms that are gentle but strong from honest

    ranch work, arms that make me feel

    safe when they gather me in. It’s the only

    time I really feel wanted, and the absolute

    best part of any day is when I manage

    to steal cherished time with Andrew.

    No, he’s not even a little wrong for me

    except maybe—maybe!—in the eyes

    of God. But much, much worse than that,

    he’s completely wrong for my parents.

  • Reading Group Guide

    A Reading Group Guide to Tricks by Ellen Hopkins


    Meet five teens: Eden Streit, Seth Parnell, Whitney Lang, Ginger Cordell, and Cody Bennett. They're from different walks of life—some are rich; some are poor; some are from nuclear families; others are not. Regardless of upbringing, they share common needs: love, acceptance, safety, and family. Eden has a secret love affair and is the daughter of a hellfire-and-brimstone preaching father; Seth, aching over the death of his mother, is a gay farm kid and hides his sexuality from his father; Whitney is good-looking and smart, but lives in the shadow of her "better" older sister and her critical mother and semi-absent father; Ginger lives in poverty with her drug-using, sexually deviant, and abusive mother; and Cody, suffering the loss of his stepfather, shoulders his mother's emotional and financial needs. All five are betrayed or "tricked" by someone they love and turn down brutal paths in which they experience even deeper deception. What will they do to be loved? To survive? Can they return home? Their stories begin in alternating vignettes and interweave into one explosive Las Vegas ending.


    Ellen Hopkins grew up in Palm Springs, California, and attended a private school. An adopted child, she studied ballet, jazz, tap, hula, and modern dancing and also rode horses. Her love of writing began in elementary school at the age of nine when she published a poem in the Palm Springs Desert Sun. After high school, she attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, and studied journalism. She has written short stories and poetry and worked as a freelance journalist, scriptwriter, editor, and instructor. Her works delve into difficult subjects such as drugs, physical and emotional abuse, sexuality, family relationships, identity, suicide, religion, and prostitution. She has written five additional young adult novels: Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, and Identical, and all five have found their way onto the New York Times Top Ten bestsellers list. A sequel to Crank and Glass—Fallout—is scheduled for release in 2010, and Perfect should be released in 2011. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada.

    The idea for Tricks came from reading that the average age of a teen female prostitute in the United States is twelve. After discovering this statistic, Hopkins wanted to write a story illustrating how teens engage in prostitution for different reasons.


    Ask students to respond to the following questions: 1) What are you willing to do to survive? 2) To what extent are you willing to give up or alter your belief system for the sake of survival? 3) What inferences can you make from the title?


    Hopkins introduces readers to the five key characters—Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody—in the first 83 pages in a series of unrelated vignettes. In what ways are their lives alike? How are they different? Why does each fall so deeply and so easily in love?

    Two of the five central characters come from intact, traditional families; two have lost a parent; and another lives with her mother and grandmother. Some argue a traditional family is the "best" environment in which to raise a family, yet all five teens end up selling themselves. Why? What elements are needed for a healthy family environment?

    In what way is each character (Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody) deceived by his/her family? In what way is each character deceived by a boyfriend and/or girlfriend?

    Tricks is written in verse. In what way does this style enable Hopkins to explore characters' thoughts? Identify one passage for each main character in which the character's thoughts are revealed. What does the passage tell us about the character? What effect does verse writing have on the reader? How does it contribute to the overall story?

    Each central character develops at least one significant relationship once he/she leaves home. Choose any relationship and explain what draws the two together. What holds them together and/or drives them apart? Use passages to support your thoughts.

    One might argue that the five central characters are "emotional infants." Choose any two and compare and contrast their emotional growth. How does each character feel about himself/herself in the opening of the book? How do those feelings change toward the middle and the end of the story and why?

    Of the five stories, which are you drawn to the most? Why?

    Hopkins uses plot and setting to weave the five stories together. Explain how the lives of the five teens intersect in the end. Does the manner in which Hopkins brings closure to each character's story seem realistic? Explain.

    Tricks is a raw, honest, and brutal read. How might reactions to this story be different if it were written as nonfiction as opposed to fiction? What advantages and disadvantages do you see?

    Numerous minor characters exist in the story, many of whom are predators. Each central character can be associated with at least one. Choose one such minor character (ex. Bryn) and explain what motivates him/her. How does he/she manipulate the central character? Why does the central character not see the manipulation in the beginning? Can you think of ways that teens can be better educated to recognize manipulation?

    At least two of the central characters (Seth and Eden) are sent away from home by their families. Is being cared for by one's family a right or privilege earned? Explain.

    Who is responsible for what happens to Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody in the end?

    There are a number of chilling and defining scenes in the lives of each central character. Identify one such scene for each character and discuss what choices each character had in that moment.

    Many teens today end up as prostitutes: Some are runaways; others are abducted. In your opinion, what can we do as a society to prevent teen prostitution and human trafficking and save those who end up on the streets?


    Research teen prostitution by reading nonfiction articles on teen prostitution and/or viewing a documentary on teens living on the streets (ex., Very Young Girls, a documentary of preadolescent minority girls serving as prostitutes in New York City). What similarities can you draw between the fictional characters and the real characters?

    To gain a global understanding of child/teen prostitution and a deeper understanding of the enormity of the problem, read and discuss works that delve into the horrors of child/teen prostitution and human trafficking in third-world countries (ex., National Book Award finalist, Sold, by Patricia McCormick). Develop a presentation (possibly PowerPoint) in which you compare and contrast the lives of young prostitutes living in America with those living in another country (Sold takes place in India).

    Based on research in the area of child/teen prostitution and human trafficking, develop a website, wiki, or iMovie about what you learned and include information about how others can help as well as resources for child/teen victims.

    All five teens lose their adolescent years. Imagine you could reconstruct their lives. Given you couldn't change their families' behavior and/or responses, outline ways in which you would arm them to deal with their families and the predators that come into their lives.

    Write a poem about some troubling or difficult aspect of your life (such as a strained relationship with a loved one or a time when you were deeply hurt emotionally or physically), and explore how writing in verse allows you to express your feelings.

    Hold a fundraising event for a local organization that supports troubled youth.

    Invite a guest speaker to your school/group who has experience in the area of child/teen prostitution and human trafficking. Have students prepare for the visit by generating a group of questions they would like to ask.

    This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

    Guide prepared by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.

    Customer Reviews

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    Tricks 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 470 reviews.
    TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
    Eden, Ginger, Cody, Seth, and Whitney are teens whose life circumstances have taken them to an increasingly common yet horrible place. Simple survival is their motivation for selling sex for money. Eden never thought about sex. Raised by a fire-and-brimstone father and mother meant hours in a church pew, not on dates and at parties. Meeting Andrew changed her life. He was just as innocent as she was, so the two learned about love together. It was real and special until her parents found out. She was sent away to a terrible place, and she did what she had to in order to escape. Ginger's life was always filled with sex. Her mother had six kids by five different guys, and her attempt to keep food on the table involved any man looking for what she was willing to sell. Thank goodness for a grandmother willing to take them in and do what she could to provide for them. Ginger vowed to be different, but when her mother began to use her for profit, it was time to leave. But making a change from what you've always known is not as easy as it seems. Life for Cody and his brother, Cory, improved when their mother married Jack. Jack was great at filling the role of dad, and Cody appreciated it. Cory may have been rebelling, but Cody did his best to be a responsible son and step-son. Then cancer struck and Jack was gone. Things got crazy when there wasn't enough money. Gambling might provide the answer, but he needed a supply of cash to make money that way, forcing him in directions he knew were dangerous. Seth and his dad survived the death of a mother and wife. Their simple Indiana farm life continued on without her; however, that simple life didn't welcome the fact that Seth had known for quite some time that he was gay. He actually lived two separate lives - the farm life his father assumed he would continue, and the new life he had found in Louisville. As long as he could keep the two lives separate, he could make everyone happy. When a letter caused the two to collide, Seth learned that his father could not accept the truth, so he was forced to leave. A man named Carl made an offer Seth couldn't refuse, but so often those offers don't last forever. Whitney is popular and beautiful. She is used to having the things she wants but not always the attention she desires. Her doting father is gone a lot on business, which leaves her with a busy mother whose focus has always been on her older daughter. Hooking up with a popular guy gives Whitney a reason to carry on, but when that relationship ends, she is left with anger. That anger drives her in a rebellious direction that she will soon regret. Ellen Hopkins takes her readers on yet another dangerous journey into lives that have gone wrong. The focus is on the increasingly current trend of teenagers forced into selling themselves to survive. Whether it is out-and-out prostitution or the thinly disguised "escort" services, more and more teens are involved in sex for money. The five young people in TRICKS all have very different reasons for getting caught up in this destructive lifestyle, and Hopkins paints a stirring and vivid picture of each of their paths into this terrible world. TRICKS is hard-hitting and disturbingly direct as it details the downward spiral of five lives. Fans of Ellen Hopkins are no doubt anxiously awaiting this new release. One word of caution from this reviewer is that this direct approach to a serious subject is best suited for older teens.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    this book is good but scary at the same time. it's sad to think this actually happens to teens. read if u have a strong stomach. very emotional...
    tpg_1910 More than 1 year ago
    It's a great book. I love Ellen Hopkins's books. They always make you think about the realism, about how what happens to the characters is happening to real people. "Tricks" makes you really think. It makes you felll bad. It's wonderful and very emotional.
    CheyanneAkmal More than 1 year ago
    When I went to pick this book up at the library, I was surprised at how small and fat it was. Great, just what I need.a 600+ page book and hardly enough time to read. When I opened up the book and glanced at the first few pages, I was delighted and shocked the margins were so wide and there were no more than seven words per line. Then I thought, "wait a minute, this is freakin' poetry!" Since I read so little poetry and never developed an appreciation for it, I left the library slightly disappointed. Well, Tricks isn't exactly poetry, but a novel written in verse. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. Dishes were piling up, dust bunnies were fighting back, and I was late to work. Tricks is a story about five deeply troubled teenagers, all from different areas, backgrounds, and family situations who end up falling into prostitution. Each character has a story to tell. These stories are brief, and jump from one character to the next and back again. At the beginning, I was a little frustrated at how short their stories were and was afraid that I would not be able to distinguish one character from the next. It turns out there was no need to worry. Hopkins does a brilliant job of infusing her characters with life, personality and emotions. As I continued to read, and the characters' situations became more harrowing, I found the stories very intense and was relieved there was some separation. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed the writing style. These stories told in verse allowed me to get into the minds and feelings of the characters without extraneous detail, and helped me feel a deeper connection with them. Tricks broke my heart and made my stomach churn. The stories were gripping, painful, and honest. My own teenage years, painful memories, wrong choices, and difficulty with parents all came flooding back.
    Hannah Koehler Christensen More than 1 year ago
    This is a raw and gritty novel that has five characters from different backrounds ending up in the same place....prostitution.
    bookleo More than 1 year ago
    I don't know how Ellen Hopkins does it. Her words scream at you. You get so engulfed in the book that you can almost hear the character's breath as it flows out of their chest. You find yourself stuck in Ellen Hopkins all too real story until the book ends and you feel yourself cast away back into reality. She has this effect on you through her writting. You won't be able to tear your eyes away or pry your hands off that book until you are reading the very last word of the very last page. Get this book and experience it for yourselve.
    SaoirseJAMS8 More than 1 year ago
    The book Tricks by Ellen Hopkins is a thrilling tale about love, lust, prostitution, and heartbreak. It was an excellent read, however, it was quite graphic, and there were times when I felt slightly uncomfortable reading about the topics; which included sex, drugs, and rape. This book incorporates the lives of five teens; three girls and two boys. The first girl (Eden) is the daughter of a priest. She falls in love with an older boy who broadens her horizons life, love, and religion. Next, there¿s Seth, a boy growing up Indiana struggling to determine his sexual orientation. He knows that his father would disapprove, and he is torn between what¿s right for him in the eyes of God. Whitney Lang has always been living in her sister¿s shadow, especially in the eyes of her mother. But, when Whitney meets someone who makes her feel special, what exactly will she do for him? Then we meet Ginger, the oldest of six in a family struggling to get by. She¿s been neglected by her mother for as long as she can remember, but a new hate towards her mom develops as she finds out the truth about the men in her home. Finally, Cody Bennett is a boy who seems to have it all; a nice family, a good job, and a beautiful girlfriend. However, when a family sickness sends his perfect world crashing down, Cody finds himself taking desperate measures to get his life back on track. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It is well written, with vivid detail and a suspenseful plot. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 14 years old. I read it at 13, and I found some of the concepts hard to grasp. There were many things that I felt were over my head. In conclusion, Tricks by Ellen Hopkins in an eventful story, and a must read for teens 14 and up. It provided me with a new perspective on teenage life, and I¿m sure it will do the same for readers everywhere.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I think that the novel taches life lessons. If you read it, you will be taken on a journey through six teenagers who are developing just by doing instead of thinking. I reccomend to teenagers who need inspiration in the situation they're in.
    2britt13 More than 1 year ago
    Tricks was a very good book. It shows what some people will do to make money. It shows what some people will do just to survive. It shows that not everyone's life is not peachy keys. It's a book that I would read again.
    ilovetaylorlautner More than 1 year ago
    I absolutely love Ellen she write amazing books and this one is amazing. I have to say that it is not my all time favorite but it was great. Hard to read at times and unbeliaveable what the characters have to go through. Overall 5 stars i just reccomend that whoever reads this book should be at least 14 it is a very strong emotional challenging book that makes you keep reading until ur jaw is hung open gasping for air because you have forgotten to breath. Thanks you for yet another amzing read.
    HarryPotterlvr101 More than 1 year ago
    I am a HUGE fan of Ellen Hopkins books so I was thrilled when I found out she wrote a new one, and this one was one of the best. It was real, gripping and exciting. I would definitely recommend it to anyone
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is an amazing book you should get! yes it has mature, scratch that, mature and wild sexual themes, but it all comes together in a touching story. one of her best!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I highly recommend it because, it's one of my favorite Ellen Hopkins book. You should definitely read if your going through a though time in life. The book tells you that if your so desperate for money do not sell your own body to get it. Eden is tired of being a good priest's daughter so when her family figures out she is dating the send her to a place to repent from all the bad things she did. Seth is also tired of living a lie to his dad, so when his dad figures out he is gay he kick him out of the house with no money. Ginger is (my favorite character) tired of her mom (whose is a prositute) bringing strange men home with her. So Ginger decides to run away with a friend. Whitney, tired of her mom always ignoring her, until she met a guy at the mall and falls in love with him. Cody, he finds any cheap (easy) way to get money even if it means gambling.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Its an amazing book! I loved it
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book was amazing, like the others. It took a little while to get acustom with the more than one charactor thing and just randomely changing between them. But all in all I loved this book and really love the author
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book! I finished it in two days i couldnt put it down!
    Retro_Era More than 1 year ago
    The thing with Ellen is you can always expect a good book from her. But I honestly believe this is one of her best (if not better) works ever. I found it almost too hard to read because she doesn't sugarcoat anything -- she tells how it really is and it's not pretty. Anyone and everyone should read this because it truly is an extraordinary book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a wonderful read and will keep your attention. I can't wait to read more from this author!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Alo_m More than 1 year ago
    Beautiful and heartbreakingly sad.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love Hopkins writing but this one wasn't one of my favorites. I think part of the problem was there were too many characters and none of their stories got the attention they needed to really get to the heart of why they made the choices they did
    blamethebooks More than 1 year ago
    Tricks is a story of love - love that is misguided, love that is misinterpreted, love that goes wrong. In her signature beautiful poetic writing style, Ellen Hopkins takes the reader on a journey that interweaves the lives of five teenagers who are desperate to be loved and are trying to figure out what saying “I love you” really means. Let me introduce you to our cast of characters: Eden, the daughter of a born-again minister in Idaho, who falls for an older boy and has to deal with the consequences of misbehaving in an ultra-religious family. Seth, a gay teen in Indiana, who is struggling with the loss of his mother and the fear of showing his real self to his homophobic father. Whitney, a girl who has always felt that her mother loved her sister more, and is desperate to be loved in the way she feels she deserves. Ginger, the oldest daughter of a prostitute, who is dealing with raising her five siblings and what happens when her mother’s life leeches into her own. Cody, a teen living in a happy, supportive family in Las Vegas - until everything starts to fall apart. Some of these teens are living in awful situations, some are very well off, but all of them are struggling with the idea of love - familial love, romantic love, even love of themselves. Throughout Tricks, the reader follows these five teens as they make different decisions in the name of love, and land themselves on a path they never imagined could happen to them. Ellen Hopkins tells their stories beautifully, and interweaves the stories of these teens who just need someone to care.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Eden's parents are souless monsters, as are the hypocritical beasts at Tears Of Zion. I hope they all rot in hell.
    ssteiner86 More than 1 year ago
    All of Ellen Hopkin's books are amazing with her unique poetry style writing makes it so easy to read page after page. It's interesting to see where the teens' lives that she writes about are all surrounding a life of turning tricks and drug abuse.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love the whole series!!!