We'll start with Hopkins. I've recently read Tricks:
The story is told from the views of five different teenagers, three girls and two guys. They get in involved in some form of teen prostitution, for various reasons from drugs to escaping their former lives. We read about their downward spirals...and I often found myself shocked and in awe of Ellen's merciless emotional pounding each of her characters go through. It's a must read, but certainly not the feel-good novel of the year.
Another free verse novel. I love Ellen's verse, though I never pretended to have the talent of a poet, I love how she paints a novel-length story with straight poetry. I'm one of those types who had to look up what "crank" is. Let me tell you, it's scary. Told from the point-of-view from one teen girl, she finds the drug while visiting her long-lost father, who as a matter of fact encourages her newly discovered habit when he parties with her. Seems Kristina never had a chance as she gives herself over to pure dependency. Dependency for the monster, and the various types of love she discovers from the boys who happen to be involved in the same scene. The intro tells us that this book is loosely based on the experience of Hopkins' daughter. Scary, beautifully written stuff.
Let's lighten the mood with a trip to hell. Ironic, right? Chuck Palahniuk's Damned is both surprising and addictive.
Don't let the title and the cartoon Satan fool you. This story is so witty and funny. It's impossible to read this satire and take yourself seriously at the same time. Damned didn't disturb me half as much as some of Chuck's more explicit novels. Snuff, for example, which is all about the queen of the porn industry trying to set the world record on video. (I still shudder to think of the ending). One reviewer called Damned "The Judy Blume book from Hell". Quiet accurate.
I quickly fell in love with the well-mannered and naive Madison Spencer, the girl who thinks she died from a marijuana overdose. Palahniuk describes a lot of gross things: the sea of wasted sperm, the wasteland of dirty diapers, a landfill of old nail clippings. Basically, all the disgusting things we waste trickle down to the untended environment of Hell. Satirical parallel here? I think so.
It turns out the Madison really starts to discover herself in hell. It's a coming-of-age thing, and she makes her own ring of young friends: the jock, the nerd, the babe, the punk--her own hellish Breakfast Club circle of friends. She lands a job as a telemarketer (because almost all of those calls the living get during dinner certainly come from hell) and begins to get brave when she discovers the real reasons behind her mysterious death, and just exactly what landed her in hell. Chuck's writing is such that this post screams for an excerpt:
"What? Are you afraid Mister Herr Hitler might not like you?"
Within me, a tiny voice asks, What's the worst that can happen? I lived. I suffered. I died--the worst fate any mortal person can imagine. I'm dead, and yet something of me continues to survive. I'm eternal. For better or worse. It's obsequious little nicety-nice girls like me who allow ass-holes to run the world: Miss Harlot O'Harlots, billionaire phony tree huggers, hypocrite drug-snorting, weed-puffing peace activists who fund the mass-murdering drug cartels and perpetuate crushing poverty in dirt-poor banana republics. It's my petty fear of personal rejection that allows so many true evils to exist. My cowardice enables atrocities.
This is when we see Maddy really start to take shape. With the help of friends, she manages to whip the asses of some of hell's worst villains, gaining armies of followers and power. Pretty impressive stuff for a thirteen-year-old daughter of hypocritical Hollywood movie-star phony hippies.
The novel ends with an amazingly entertaining visit to the land of the living on Halloween night. I won't spoil the ending for you, but it makes you want more. And perhaps we'll get it. Chuck is the master of teasing suspense. So many chapters, he sets you up with a plot cliff-hanger, making you want more sooo badly, only to build you up and satisfy your hunger slowly. Chuck is basically making mad, sweet, literary love to you through each and every chapter. Who doesn't want some good, hot, metaphorical love with this man?
As for my own writing, I continue to experience rejection and self-imposed procrastination. Perhaps some kind soul will find the time to kick my ass after the busy holiday season. 'Tis the time for family and friends and generosity with one's free time as writing takes a back seat for a short while.
Just don't forget to READ (: