by Ellen Hopkins
Reviewed by The Book Dealer(s)
“…every word an author writes is like tossing a stone into a pond. And you don’t know where they’ll go, or who they’ll touch, or when they might come back to you. I think everything you do is kind of like that, too (p. 602)” Harley- Character in Ellen Hopkins’s Tilt.
Back in the days when I was teaching 9-12th grade reading in “The Reading Trailer Park,” Hopkins’s books were those that were passed from student to student to student to student. These learners were enticed by Hopkins’s realistic portrayal of teens. Although as a teacher, one should be aware that her subject matter delves into adult themes and, at times, portrays teens making poor choices with little or no lasting negative consequences. These mature young adult themes will make for rich class discussions for the educator who takes the time to understand how these themes play out in students’ lives.
Three teens, three stories—all interconnected through their parents’ family relationships. Dysfunctional family relationships, affairs, and lack of positive adult role models all contribute to the adults pulling away, caught up in their own dilemmas, in turn, resulting in the lives of the teens beginning to Tilt. Slowly and mostly without notice, these three teens begin to show major changes in their personalities and choices.
Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her, but often in a way that is not healthy. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year—and decides to keep the baby?
During that same summer, Shane turns sixteen and falls in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister’s impending death. He struggles with accepting Alex’s love and turns to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.
Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching wanting to fit in and be noticed by boys. The changes she sees in herself are not ones of which she is proud. She realizes that boys can’t always be trusted, as she begins a relationship based on a tenuous connection that will surely not last.
Hopkins does it again. Her book reads like a novel, and no one can quite create a sentence that sounds like music like she does. As an adult, I appreciated her portrayal of adults; a stark reminder that our actions do have a ripple effect in the lives of young people.