Ellen Hopkins

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009

Plot Summary

"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?"


  • Kirkus (May 20, 2010): “Hopkins sharply portrays extreme adolescent turbulence... Hopkins’s pithy free verse reveals shards of emotion and quick glimpses of physical detail.”

  • Publishers Weekly (July 20, 2009): “Hopkins again tackles a serious societal problem, this time focusing on teen prostitution. Fans of her work will recognize both her signature free verses and the gritty details she weaves within them while readers may connect with some characters more than others, they will long remember each painful story.”

[Reviews from School Library Journal, The Horn Book, and The New York Times Review of Books no longer available online]


ALA GLBT Round Table’s Rainbow Book List, 2010

Response to Challenges

Ellen Hopkins: “My books speak to hard subject matter. Addiction. Cutting. Thoughts of suicide. Abuse. Sexual abuse. All these issues affect children. Look at the statistics. Closing your eyes won't make these things go away. Why not talk about them with your kids, to arm them with knowledge. Open the books with them. Listen to the author speak with them.”

Ellen Hopkins: “Information is vital for teens, so they understand the possible repercussions of the decisions they make. Books are a safe space to explore the darker aspects of society. Better to arm them with knowledge than to let ignorance hurt them for real.”

Polk County (TX) Public School Psychiatrist Tim Owens: “It's something that really happens in children's lives. It's something that really happens in Polk County. It's something that I've dealt with as a psychologist for many years of trying to pull pieces back together in some small way of kids who've been victimized by things that are similar to this.”

Florida Southern College Professor Erica Bernheim: “I think it's really important that we remember and respect the difference between description, and inclusion, and endorsement. A text like ‘Tricks’ may describe points of view that we don't often see in literature. I would suggest that it would be a gross misreading to say that it in any way glamorizes or endorses life on the streets or prostitution as hobbies or lifestyle choices in general.”


Flood, A. (2009, 24 September). "Banned Books Week Adopts Author's Anti-Censorship Poem as Manifesto." The Guardian. Retrieved July 11, 2022 from

Moore, K.C. (2022, April 26). "Polk School Board Set to Discuss More Books. Panels Approve 2 More for High Schools." The Ledger. Retrieved July 11, 2022 from tricks-polk-county-high-schools/7440920001/

"Tricks." (2010, May 20). Kirkus. Retrieved July 11, 2022 from

"Tricks." (2009, July 20). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2022 from

Vess, D. (2010, January 29). "2010 Rainbow Book List." Rainbow Book List, ALA Rainbow Round Table. Retrieved July 11, 2022 from


Updated 11 July 2022



Book Resume created by Virginia Library Association and PDSAL