Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Hopkins, E. (2009). Tricks. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
YA??? Fiction / Realistic???? Fiction

This book came up for consideration in the high school collection.  I read reviews about it and they ranged from outstanding to trash.  I decided to read it myself - whew. It is definitely for very mature readers. It is all about sex - first sex, straight sex, gay sex, straight having gay sex, three way sex, teen prostitution, sugar daddies, sex for drugs, drugs for sex, mom selling sex with daughter, priest sex, rape, video sex for money, sexual abuse . . . I guess bestiality and incest are the only things that don't happen! The depictions are fairly graphic, some more than others. Many of the scenes are stark and desperate. Most of the 5 main character kids also get hooked on serious drugs (heroine, crack) over the course of their declines from good kids to kids forced to be bad.

The tough thing about this is the main characters are all teenagers (15-17), and at the bottom are the struggles of their lives and most teens: wanting love, acceptance, their own paths away from parents, insecurity. First love that ends up not being first love, deception from those who they trust - young and old, loss. . . And especially since it's graphic and controversial, kids are going to want it! The other Hopkins books are flying off the shelves in this library.  But does the age of the characters make it Young Adult? I am not so sure. And I pray it's not Realistic Fiction, but I'm afraid it is for many young people.

Hopkins' style is excellent. The novel-in-prose is the same as her other stories (some of which I've read - Tricks is quite a bit more graphic) and a very cool, easy-to-read format. The characters are rich and well-developed and you feel like you know them. No problem with the writing, but it's the same as her other novels, so readers can experience that style via another book.

I would say this book is for the mature reader - really, seniors minimum to me. I thought about whether I would want my freshman boy to come across it and read it. Definitely not because I'm pretty sure there are things he would learn that he doesn't need to yet. Ever? :-) I hate when Mom bias comes into play, but shoot, there were scenes that made my ears burn red.
There is only one good role model in the book, and we don't get to know her much. She's a secondary character - maybe even a 3rd level character.  Parents fail their children, church leaders fail their parishoners, and no one seems to make the right choices. I am struggling to see what would be a positive take-away for students who read this. It just was such a dirty book - I mean in the sense of how dirty it made me feel. Not naughty dirty, though there is some of that, just ICK. Does that make sense?

I think this will be one of the biggest struggles for me as a librarian. Putting my personal feelings aside and deciding whether it has some value to someone. I can't stand censorship and of course I support freedom of information, but where do the lines cross between appropriateness and freedom to read what's inappropriate??

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