Book Review: TRIANGLES by Ellen Hopkins

TrianglesLike many of Ellen Hopkins’s  young adult books, TRIANGLES has multiple protagonists, multiple points of view and no shortage of edgy subject matter. Unlike the books that Hopkins is known for however, TRIANGLES is aimed at adult readers. The three protagonists – Holly, Andrea and Marissa are fortyish mothers, two married, one not,  and each facing a kind of transitional crisis.

The issues explored in TRIANGLES – serious illness, infidelity, sexual addiction, homosexuality, parental neglect – will be familiar to fans of Ellen Hopkins, but presented in this adult context, seem not only very different  but somehow mundane. Not that this book is a boring read. It’s not. I found myself drawn into these women’s lives in the way I rarely am when reading books for adults. But I was struck at how these edgy issues that make YA books exciting and frightening made TRIANGLES kind of depressing. Maybe because I am in the exact age group of the protagonists,  but I felt a sort of world weary malaise as I read this. I suppose that means I can relate to the banality of being a forty-something wife and mother. I suppose that’s why I much prefer reading (and writing) about children and teens.

That said this is a worthy book for Hopkins’s first foray into adult literature. The verse is tight and rich with the imagery, word play, concrete forms and frankness for which Hopkins is known. I haven’t done a close comparison with her YA books, and maybe it’s my imagination, but TRIANGLES seems a more prose-ish book. There are certainly very challengingly poetic sections – each change of point of view is bookmarked by a poem that could be described as being from an omniscient narrator – but much of the book is presented in a fairly straightforward manner. I think this suits the new genre and audience; the self-indulgent adolescent philosophizing that characterizes YA novels (not just verse novels either) would not suit these more mature narrators.

Plot-wise, there is certainly plenty going on in this book. One of the many things I love about verse novels is how much material can be covered relatively few words. Hopkins books are never short (this one is over 500 pages) but I have often joked that if she wrote in prose, Hopkins’s books would be as epic as George R.R. Martin’s THE GAME OF THRONES. With the level of detail achieved, Holly, Andrea and Marissa’s stories feel complex and complete and though there’s a sense of resolution at the end, it’s far from neatly tied up. Above all the conflicts and complexities of TRIANGLES feel real; and real life, women like the three narrators surely know, is seldom neat.

TRIANGLES was released October 2011. I received my paperback copy in a contest not affiliated with the author or the publisher. I’ll be doing a giveaway of my copy later this year so stay tuned!

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