Collateral by Ellen Hopkins
Ellen Hopkins is best known for her edgy teen titles, told in her signature free verse style, but broke into the adult market last year with Triangles. Her second adult novel, Collateral, takes on an issue many people and families are facing: life in the military.
Ashley and Darian, college students, go out one night and unknowingly change their lives forever. Two attractive marines, Cole and Spencer, walk in, and Darian immediately wrangles the two. Darian and Spencer’s connection is raw, visceral, and immediate. Ashley and Cole’s feelings grow at a slow burn, but hit a high flame once peaked. Both couples are forced to deal with figuring out how their relationship will work while dealing with deployment and time apart.
Darian marries Spencer and moves onto the base with him. Ashley continues to graduate school, attempting to keep herself focused on things while Cole is away. The way the girls handle the distance in their relationship is quite different. Darian misses the comfort of a man, and actively seeks it from whomever she can. Ashley is so madly in love with Cole, she can’t even contemplate being with another guy. Until one day in her poetry class, when she feels a spark with her professor. It catches her completely off guard, but leaves her wondering about the five years she’s put into the relationship with Cole.
Even though I have no experience being a military spouse, and couldn’t even pretend to imagine the pain and suffering family members of those who willingly sacrifice themselves for their country, I feel confident in saying Hopkins got all the emotions right. Ashley and Darian, and the other military wives they interact with, deal with loneliness and infidelity while their partners are gone; worry about injury or death of their loved one; and handle the mental and physical changes of a soldier home from war.
Hopkins free verse is as stellar as it always is, given extra time to shine through Cole and Ashley’s poetry. I won’t lie when I say the poems she wrote as Cole are some of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve read in a long time.
Having read some of her young adult titles, which focus on heavy subjects like drug abuse, I wasn’t taken back by some of the graphic sex scenes between Ashley and Cole. I felt it was appropriately used language to truly build up the relationship between the two characters; this is a raw portrait of these relationships, and Hopkins shows that throughout the entire 500+ page book.
If your community is a military-heavy one, you definitely need to add Collateral to your shelves. Even if your audience doesn’t include military families, this is sure to be a bestseller, so her existing fan base will want to read this.
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