Earlier this year, I read my first Ellen Hopkins and I liked it enough to want to read more of them. It’s funny, though, how much more daring and dark this later book can be. I feel like this is a sign of publishers broadening the sort of content deemed acceptable for teens. There’s definitely no HEA in Tilt, a far cry from the sudden mostly happy ending of Impulse. Still, I’m finding it hard to place just how I feel about it. I think the increased scope of Tilt, with a much larger cast of characters really upped the melodrama factor. The audiobook was a good way to go, though, because it put different voices to each character.
In Tilt, Ellen Hopkins takes on a LOT: drug usage, alcoholism, divorce, two traumatizing diseases, grief, rape, suicide, and pregnancy. Honestly, I’m probably forgetting a couple of major ones too. That is just SO much to cover in a single book and doing so without getting maudlin is pretty much impossible. On top of that, I think it’s even more difficult to handle each issue fully. That said, Hopkins does a really good job with a number of them, though others are somewhat glossed over.
Much as I am totally not into books about pregnancy, I think that storyline is perhaps the one that Hopkins handled best. Mikayla’s boyfriend talks her into sex without a condom, using the pull-out method instead, which, in a book, means definite pregnancy on the way. Mikayla really considers every avenue open to her, weighing both what will be best for her and for the baby that she could potentially birth. Even though she’s impulsive and has a history of terrible decisions, Mikayla really steps up and grows.
In addition to Mikayla, there are two other main characters and a whole bunch of secondary characters with perspectives. The main characters have long chapters, while the secondary characters sections generally took less than a minute on the audiobook, so probably no more than a couple pages. This piecemeal approach was confusing at the beginning, and sort of a blessing and a curse in the long run. Hearing from other characters is nice, but it’s also a bit difficult to remember the entire cast sometimes and often frustrating when I want to know more about a particular character. Also, like with my previous experience, the characters occasionally used words and phrases that seemed out of character. I will say, though, that most of the transitions from one perspective to another were really effective.
In my prior Hopkins experience, I had some questions about her treatment of the LGBT subject matter. I’m actually glad I read this book before I posted that review, because I wasn’t confident in my opinion on that. I think this later book makes it apparent that Hopkins is very LGBT-friendly. Actually, I was shocked at the change from the previous book to this one, which is way racier, full of sex both straight and gay. Shane’s plot is also notable for his having a pretty functional relationship with Alex, despite Alex’s HIV. Shane’s issues aren’t due to his being gay, but to his sick younger sister. Also, though it’s sad, I love that Alex can’t magically make things better for Shane, even though Alex is really supportive.
In contrast to the other two, Harley was a big change in tone. She’s idealistic and naive, definitely verging on stupid. Though I kept having to remember that she was thirteen to fourteen in Tilt. A crush on her step-brother to be brings her in touch with a dangerous crowd and into a dangerous spiral. Harley’s story is most upsetting by nature of her youth and how little she understood anything that was happening to her, but it’s also the most frustrating because “GIRL, NO.” It did seem pretty realistic, though, how much she would do to please someone even if she didn’t necessarily want to do it.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I don't really have any specific complaints aside from feeling like Hopkins took on a biiit too much.
The Final Verdict:
Each individual story would have made a great book, I think, but combined it was a bit overwhelming and these interconnected families really need a break. The audiobook narrators turn in good performances and make character-tracking a bit simpler.