Customer Reviews: Tricks
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on September 13, 2011
I just finished the book, and I have to admit that I desperately flipped through the last few blank pages hoping to find more. I warn you all now, the latter half of this review may end up with spoilers. If it does, I'll let you know with asterisks and pretty little caps.

First of all, I'm not an experienced Hopkins reader. I read another one of her books from my library (I'm pretty sure it was Impulse? Staring Tony, and two others in a suicide rehab clinic)
So going in to Tricks I sort of knew what to expect. Gritty, honest writing, emotion, and heartbreak.

Lots of people complain about two things in this book. One, universal with Hopkins it seems, it the writing style. I will admit I was also victim to the old mistake of opening it up, assuming it was poetry, and putting it down. Please, if You pick this book up, give it a chance! It's written in verse, but outside the "A Poem By ___" openers it's all straight prose divided in crafty line breaks that drive subtle points home.
Another thing is that people complain it's just too graphic. I'm sorry, but you're reading about love, heartbreak, and eventual prostitution. People say it's too detailed, and it disturbs them. Imagine how the ones who LIVE this kind of thing feel. When you're being raped there is no neat way to avoid the gritty truth and details. There's no way to forget the smell of sex or scrape away enough skin in the shower to ever feel clean. Hopkins takes that feeling of desperation, fear, and the thoughts of "who will want me now" and instills this into her book.

So if you don't want to feel like someone's gripping your heart with cold fingers, don't read this. If you're light stomached or can't take the truth of what's really happening in this world, this book isn't for you. But I urge anyone else. EVERYONE else to give it a chance. This book unveils the topics people skirt around. Too many people refuse to talk about this. About sex, teenagers, choices. Perhaps that's the cause of half the situations that lead down roads ending in heroine and prostitution? Read this. Parents and teenagers alike. Read it together, even. It's powerful. Honest. It will strike you at your core, pry you open, and place every heart-wrenching line into your deepest corners.
Even the opening poems in this story had me in tears at some points.

Overall I think the entire book is a work of true art. It shines light on the dark corners of reality and opens -at least for me- your soul up to the pain of people. Sometimes, people who will never even know someone cares about them.

I swear, after this, the next time I see someone tripped out on a street corner looking to score, I'll think of Whitney. When I see strippers at a club I'll be thinking of Ginger. When I see that girl being preached at by her parents, my heart will return to Eden.
To Cody, and Seth, and even the minor characters. Andrew, Alex, even Gram and all her love. My heart goes out not only to these fictional characters, but to people I've never met before. It's simple stunning that something as simple as a book has me in tears, wanting to run outside down the street and find someone. Hug someone. Let a stranger cry on my shoulder.
Ellen Hopkins, if you ever somehow read this by a freaky miracle, I want you to know you've touched a very personal part of me. I wept, and smiled, and cheered, and cursed at every page of your hard work. Message delivered. Thank you.

My one, and only meager complaint is that it felt like it ended all too soon. I'm so used to books that reach the end and keep going, wrapping everything up with a tidy bow. I actually had to go back, reading some of the last entries from characters over and over, having to drill into myself "this is it. This is the last time you'll see this person in writing". Honestly, that just broke my heart. I wanted to find these people, five, ten, fifteen years down the road and see where they were. How they were. Some endings, like Whitney's, I just was left with questions.
But really, I think that's a good thing. Life doesn't ever just happily wrap up with a ribbon. It goes on, changes, and shifts. Any happy ending is only temporary after all, and things will always move forward.

Just like you said Cody, "Life is a gamble after all".
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on October 11, 2015
Generally, I only post reviews when I can give a book a 4 or 5 star rating. But for this one, because it has so many 5 star ratings, I wanted to throw my opinion out there for consideration. Ellen Hopkins is an author I like. Not only do I like her writing style, but I also appreciate the issues she addresses in her fiction. Being a high school teacher who has taught in areas with high "at-risk" populations, I believe that Ellen Hopkins is an important YA author. The topic of "Tricks" is timely and relevant.... I have no problem with that. What bothers me with this novel is the lack of character development. I didn't feel an attachment to a single character in the book. With few exceptions, there was almost nothing about any of the characters that I could grasp onto that went any deeper than the surface of the personality. What good does it do to describe the sexual violence when the characters don't come off as anything more than "paper people?" In "real" life, even when those teens who have been abused in ways similar to these teens, there is still a longing for beauty and creativity and knowledge.... even in the depths of despair, there is still a desire for music or writing or connections to knowledge. But the teens in Tricks didn't have that. These kids seemed to be driven by sex, drugs, gambling and the pursuit of relationships but nothing else. I wanted to know these characters. I had know idea who they were, just what they did, not why or how. I wanted to understand why a person would betray her beloved for 2 strawberries (not to mention betraying her own potential values concerning sex)..... Hopkins didn't convince me... nor did she convince me that these kids had any depth to them at all. Even the family situations (for the most part, with the possible exception of Cody) seemed awkward and forced.
I know my opinion here is definitely a minority opinion. I can only say that when I saw Ellen Hopkins has another book, "Traffick", coming out soon that takes these same kids through more of the same, I will not be reading it even if it is free. I probably would read it if it introduced different characters because I generally like to read Ellen Hopkins books..... but I don't really want to read any more about the 5 characters from Tricks.
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on April 8, 2010
"Tricks" was my second Hopkins' book. I read "Impulse" a while ago and remember devouring it in a matter of hours and loving it. I wish I felt the same way about "Tricks."

Hopkins has established herself as a crusader of tough teen issues - drug use, suicide, abuse. This book was no exception. The author approached teen prostitution head-on, not sugar-coating it and without unnecessary moralizing. I applaud Hopkins for that, not many authors have guts to touch this kind of subject. As for the novel itself, it left me cold.

First, I was (to my own surprise) extremely bored by the narration, so much so that I started contemplating to drop the book altogether. I might have felt this way because of the multitude of the POVs - too many switches, too little time to get attached to any character. Very often I found myself confused who was the narrator, the stories started to blend together.

I also thought the book was just too wordy, too drawn out when it didn't need to be (too much info about Cody's gambling problems, for instance) and too quick or superficial when some events needed to be explored deeper. I felt I needed more to understand what drove Eden to so easily give herself over to Jerome for a couple of strawberries or how Ginger took on stripping.

Some events in the book felt a bit too cliche or gimmicky - Lucas' reasons for breaking up with Whitney (because she was a virgin and not great in bed - really?) or Carl's transformation to an abusive sugar daddy in a matter of... minutes.

Long story short, too often I felt I was being emotionally manipulated rather than truly touched by the characters' plight. I read another "issue book" not so long ago - "Living Dead Girl." Alice felt real to me, I never truly believed in Seth, Cody, Whitney, and Eden, only Ginger and her story had some authenticity.

The story picked up significantly in the last 100 pages or so, once everybody hit the rock bottom. Those pages were great, gritty and disturbing and painful to read. But it took way too long to get there and by that point in the story I was already tired of the book.

Will I recommend this book? Absolutely, the subject of it is important and has to be brought to light. Is this the best written book about teen prostitution? I don't think so.
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on September 28, 2009
In her five previous novels, which focus on such timely and disturbing social phenomena as sexual abuse, attempted suicide and methamphetamine use, Ellen Hopkins cuts through propaganda and politics to get to the emotional heart of the often controversial subjects she explores. In TRICKS, her most ambitious novel to date, Hopkins uses her free verse style to great effect as she explores the different routes taken by five teens to the same desperate solution: prostitution.

Hopkins utilizes slightly different styles for each of her five subjects, a distinction that will probably go unnoticed by many readers, especially once they become absorbed in each person's story. She also provides transitions between narrators by repeating key words, further expressing the connections among these young people even before the plot does so. Although these stylistic niceties are subtle, the differences among Hopkins's subjects are not, and readers will likely have no trouble distinguishing the teens' narrative voices because their stories are so singular.

Eden is the daughter of a fundamentalist preacher in Idaho, whose parents send her to a religious rehabilitation camp, where she falls in love with a non-believer and trades sexual favors with a prison guard to try to secure her freedom. Seth is an Indiana farm boy who comes out to his father in the wake of his first gay love affair, only to be thrown out of the house and into the arms of a wealthy but demanding and manipulative older lover. Whitney is a typical wealthy teen from Santa Cruz; when her first serious relationship fails, her insecurities and desire for affection connect her with a charismatic older man who promises her love but may not have her best interests at heart. For Ginger, prostitution runs in the family; she doesn't respect her prostitute mother, and she knows she has to escape (even if it means abandoning her younger siblings) when her mom starts pimping Ginger herself out to clients in search of someone younger. Cody lives in Las Vegas, so it's not surprising that he turns to gambling when a health emergency and family death lead to financial strains; when online poker and sports betting force him deeper into debt, however, Cody becomes desperate enough to perform acts he never would have imagined before.

Hopkins's writing is striking and shocking partly because of the juxtaposition of lyricism and lewdness in each person's story. Each teen starts his or her short section with a poem summing up thematic or narrative concerns: "You stand in front of me, / Pretending to be solid, / but you're nothing / more than smoke and mirrors." These thoughtful, lyrical passages stand in stark contrast to the scenes of graphic sex, drug use and desperation that eventually characterize each subject's narratives. Readers will be alternately titillated and horrified by the encounters Hopkins describes in brief but explicit detail, and will frequently find themselves both repelled by the wretched situations she recounts and unable to turn away from the seeming inevitability of the outcomes. For some of the kids, the outcomes are bleak indeed; for others, hope shines --- or at least glints --- through the closing pages.

TRICKS is a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the wildly varying, but all-too-common, paths that lead to the dead-end desperation of teen prostitution.

--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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on December 31, 2015
Powerful and haunting with characters I really cared about. I did get confused at times at who was speaking and it might have been easier with one less character voice, but I felt deeply for all of them and their plights. The one thing that really stands out to me in this book is that all of these kids ended up on the streets though for different specific reasons, basically because of one thing: abominable parenting. That is the best lesson that can be learned from this read. Lost children don't end up that way by accident. They are driven there by careless and self obsessed people who have no right bringing children into the world. As parents we must be strong, 100 percent committed to loving our children and giving them the confidence, nurturing and respect they deserve. There is no such thing as problemed children, only problemed parents.
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on May 1, 2015
Disturbing. I am a fan of Ellen Hopkins writing style and story lines. I loved the Crank series. The book Tricks takes the world of drugs and sex and predators on our teenagers to a descriptive sad place. I know it's fiction but I believe each of those kids' stories have happened to countless teens all over. I used to like going to Las Vegas but not so sure anymore after reading this book. I'm a parent of teenage boys and it's sad to know how the parents' lack of involvement and critical judgment of their kids contributes to pushing the kids onto the slippery slope. I hate the idea that this stuff happens so routinely to our teenage kids but it's a sign of a good author that gets their readers to feel so much. It also was a good chance to reflect on my own parenting style and make sure I don't shut out my kids, no matter what they are going through. Great book.
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on April 16, 2016
This might be my least-favorite book I have ever read. The only reason it does not get a one star is because it kept my reading, probably in the same way that awful soap operas keep people watching.
I'll start with the content. This book is EXTREMELY explicit. There are many scenes in this book I wouldn't feel comfortable discussing online, much less with middle school / high school students (whom this book is aimed at). The graphic descriptions of sex make this book seem pornographic at times.
Now, this sometimes serves a purpose, if the character development is strong and the situations are extremely realistic. However, Hopkins fails to write deep characters. Throughout the novel there are 5 main characters, none of which are ever given any depth.
The story is also painfully predictable and cliche. There are no positive moments in the entire book. The reader only sees the low points of everyone's life in the story.
It's a downer to read, the characters are shallow, it's predictable, and it's filled with more sex than late night HBO.
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Eden, Seth, Whitney, Ginger, and Cody are five teens, from all over the country. They may be as different as anyone could be, but they all have something in common: they want to be loved. But their pursuit of love and happiness isn't always smooth, and very quickly each teen finds themselves in a place they don't want to be, a place they never expected to be, each of them turning tricks. What starts out as five separate stories slowly intertwines to become one story about sticking to what you believe in, standing up for yourself, and ultimately growing up.

As always with Ellen Hopkins' books, Tricks is one that will make you cringe but at the same time have you so tightly under its spell that it is impossible to stop reading. Tricks is intriguing at first as Hopkins introduces readers to her five diverse, painfully honest, and flawed characters. You can't help but connect with at least one of them in one way, shape or form. You even have high hopes for them and their happy ending, even as you can see that something terrible and heartbreaking is in store for them, and see them stumble into it. Tricks is not for the faint of heart; Hopkins gives readers a realistic and hard look at each one's life, not leaving out a single thing. She demonstrates to readers that there aren't any happy, perfect endings, but there is a way out, and all you need to do is ask. Tricks is a powerful, chilling read with a cast of gripping characters that takes a look at how they deal when forced into unthinkable circumstances.

Cover Comments: This cover is actually pretty plain, but keeps in style with the covers of Ellen Hopkins' other books. So that in itself usually makes it distinguishable, but really I think it's pretty unremarkable. I'm trying to figure out what the cover is supposed to looks like fire one minutes and then a red sheet the next. Oh well, it does it's job well! (Edited to add: I just saw a finished copy--very impressive! It looks much nicer than the picture!)
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on January 23, 2016
This is a great book, but it's hard to read. It's important to read it, but still hard. The author does an amazing job examining some of the reasons young people get the involved with/become victims of sex work. Great, great, great writer. Would definitely recommend
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on April 10, 2011
Just like her other books, Tricks has real meaning to it. It's the kind that makes you reflect on your life and see how much you take for granted. It makes you hate yourself for the times that you yelled at your parents for not letting you go to a party, or not buying you clothes that "you'd die without". I really respect her and thank her for exposing these true and important topics.

Tricks takes turns switching from five different perspectives: Eden Streit, Seth Parnell, Whitney Lang, Ginger Cordell, and Cody Bennett. I fell in love with every single one of these characters. They all had a different, heartbreaking story to tell and reduced me to nothing less than a pile of tears. Ellen Hopkins didn't sugar-coat anything in this book and threw in disturbing, yet necessary scenes that portrayed the seriousness of this topic. The book showed how you can jump from one path to another in the blink of an eye and end up living a life you never though could happen to you. You'll read Tricks and think, that will never happen to me, but no one can be 100% positive.
It was strong, powerful, and really spoke to me. The only part that bothered me was the ending. It was sort of just left to your imagination, which I guess is ok because it's not like she could have ended it with 'and everyone lived happily ever after.' This book was very moving and I recommend it it anyone who can handle the truth.

Eden Streit is the daughter of a preacher and has to be a good little Christian and follow all of her parents' orders. Eden makes the mistake of falling in love with Andrew, who her parents don't approve of, and everything goes down hill from there.
Even though Eden is the opposite of me, I can relate to her and got really into her story. She felt so real to me and it felt like she was telling me her story as if she were in the room.

Seth Parnell is still mourning the loss of his mother and struggling with the two parts of himslef-the straight guy around his dad, and the gay guy who has fallin in love. Even though Seth is a guy, I suffered through every painful moment he told. He was a very likeable character who really caught my attention.

Whitney Lang is a pretty normal girl in the shadow of her perfect sister, with a mother who doesn't like her and a father who is only home on the weekends. Whitney was the easiest for me to relate to since she had a more normal life than the others. I instantly connected to her and it was really sad to read her drastic fall into prostitution.

Ginger Cordell is my favorite character I think. She lives with her grandmother and her numerous siblings(most from different fathers). Her mom is a prostitute and is rarley around. I don't know why, but Ginger stuck out the most to me. She seemed so strong and brave to me and I cried so much while reading her story.

Cody Bennett is an average guy who likes to drink and smoke(he actually reminds me of my brother minus the prostitution and smoking part). When his step-father gets fataly sick, Cody has to step up to the plate and make money the fastest way he can to support the family. Cody is a really great character and I love him for bing so selfless. Ok, being a prostitute isn't a healthy way to save your family, but he did what he had to do to help his mom.
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