Young Readers Faced With Gritty Realities in Tilt
- Friday, September 28, 2012
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
In the same way John Grisham is known for his fast-paced legal thrillers and Stephanie Meyer has become famous for telling stories of unrequited love between an ordinary girl and a sparkly vampire, New York Times' best-selling author Ellen Hopkins is gaining quite a reputation for her gritty yet poetic approach to reading for young adults 14 and up.
Often tackling relevant social ills like suicide, teen pregnancy, addiction and broken families in stories starring young protagonists on the brink of adulthood, it's not escapist, feel-good literature in the least. In fact, her work reminds me of a book I read as a teenager that I'll still never forget, Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.
Employing the reliable if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality, Tilt fits in comfortably with the rest of Hopkins' literary repertoire. Like recent movies including What to Expect When You're Expecting and He's Just Not That Into You, but not nearly as upbeat, Tilt is interconnected storytelling featuring three teens who have a shared bond via their parents' family relationships.
And as the adults disappear into the proverbial woodwork and get caught up in the drama of their own lives (and trust me, there's enough for a book of their own), these teens lives begin to tilt considerably—hence the book's moniker.
Focusing around young teens grappling with complicated love lives—and not in a the-boy-did-me-wrong sense like a Taylor Swift song—there's 18-year-old Mikayla who winds up pregnant the summer before her senior year. Leaning towards keeping the baby, she's not sure if her boyfriend Dylan's wild affections will remain if she's a mom.
For 16-year-old Shane, he's also found love, too, a thrill since he's been struggling ever since getting word of his little sister's impending death. Trouble is, the guy he loves is HIV positive.
Rounding out the story, we're also introduced to 14-year-old Harley, the kind of good girl Tom Petty wrote about in "Free Fallin'."
But being good isn't exactly rocking her world at the moment, so she's in desperate search of love from an older boy. Naturally, more self-destruction follows, and now there's a large gulf between who she is—and who she wants to be.
Given that our world is anything but uncomplicated, one can't help appreciate the author's candor. From start to finish, Hopkins never sugarcoats what these young people are going through. At the same time, however, that doesn't mean that it's any less unsettling.
What Tilt does particularly well is show, not tell, the often-dire consequences of our choices, good, bad and somewhere in between. If you're looking for role models, you'll likely want to look elsewhere, but a book like this does provide plenty of fodder for future conversation, which is far more than you can say for the "Twilight Saga."
*This Review First Published 9/28/2012
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