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Ellen Hopkins at TeenLIVE: Resolute Writing

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Fans lined up an hour early, eagerly awaiting their favorite author's arrival at NYPL's Grand Central Library. Some had even traveled from Connecticut to attend this TeenLIVE event, featuring the award-winning author Ellen Hopkins. Hopkins herself arrived all smiles — a pro at library visits, she spends over 100 days a year speaking all over the country. NYPL was lucky enough to be one of the stops on her busy book tour celebrating the release of her new young adult novel, Perfect, and her first adult novel, Triangles.

What many may not know about Hopkins is that she started out writing non-fiction books for children. She then made the leap into the realm of young adult novels with the release of Crank. The story, which continues in Glass and Fallout, is based on her own experiences with her daughter’s addiction to crystal meth. The book was a hit with teens and adults alike, even making its way onto the New York Times Bestseller List.

As you can tell, the subject matter of her books are not light and airy; they are dark and weigh on the mind of the reader like a brick. Taking details from real life situations of friends and acquaintances, Hopkins is able to transport the reader to a world of real life crises and consequences. Hopkins writes on her website, “I do as much primary research as I can. This involves in-person, telephone or online interviews with people who have faced the issues I am writing about.” She is one of the most-banned authors because of the content and subject matter in her books. Hopkins smiles about this fact when she speaks of it. She is not coy when she wants to push a button or two.

Her books deal with drug abuse, sexual molestation, suicide, and eating disorders, among many other things. Hopkins weathers the storms of torrential subjects and delivers free verse poetry that really transports the reader to the dark corners of her characters’ lives. Her dedication to her writing is also reflected in her dedication to her fans. Hopkins tries to answer Facebook posts and e-mails as best she can. She has given advice or pointed those who have contacted her in the direction of local help. She has even contacted police departments for those fans whom she thinks may be in some sort of danger.

Although she is soft spoken, her words — on the page and in person — can pack a powerful punch, causing her audiences to think about decisions they make the things they do. Although she writes about tough situations, she speaks honestly to the effects that result from the choices we make. She is not telling us what to do, but brings forth the consequences that may come from our actions. Are you sure you want to be in that place at that time with those people? What will come of this? We may never know, but through her characters, she delivers insights into possible outcomes.

Writing is something that Hopkins has always done. As a child, she wrote poems, and now she is a bestselling author. She continues to write about tough subjects, even though her books are contested. She has two more projects coming out in 2012 and one scheduled for 2013. If there is one thing we can learn from Hopkins, it is to not be afraid. Speak your mind. Write down your thoughts. Reach out for help. Be yourself. Don’t let fear stop you. She doesn’t.

For further reading — titles dealing with tough subject matter:

  • Cut — Patricia McCormack
    For some people, the only thing that feels good is pain. Due to her self-mutilation, Callie is sent to a mental hospital where she must work on herself to get better.
  • The Giver — Lois Lowry
    In a world where everything is perfect and everyone is given their place, what happens when you find out the secrets that only few are privy too? Jonas must decide whether to protect the truth or find his own way against the “norms” of what he has always known.
  • Go Ask Alice — Anonymous
    This book chronicles the days of a young girl dealing with her addiction to drugs.
  • Hold Still — Nina LaCour
    After her best friend, Ingrid, commits suicide, Kaitlin finds herself disconnected from the girl she used to be. Kaitlin looks to Ingrid's diary entries to try and understand what happened, and to figure out how her life will be shaped without Ingrid in it.
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story — Ned Vizzini
    School pressures lead to 15-year-old Craig’s depression and suicidal thoughts. In order to regain his mental health, Craig checks himself into a mental hospital.
  • Looking for Alaska — John Green
    Miles, aka Pudge, spends his first year at a boarding school where he makes new friends, like the Colonel and a puzzling girl named Alaska. The events “before” and “after” an incident this year will re-shape his life.
  • Speak — Laurie Halse Anderson
    In this Printz Honor Book, freshman Melinda attends a party where she is raped. Not knowing how to truly react and deal with what has happened, she becomes silent and does not speak.
  • Stolen — Lucy Christopher
    Sixteen-year-old Gemma is abducted and taken to the Australian outback where she tries to escape from her captor, but cannot.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why — Jay Asher
    Clay comes home to a package that he was never expecting: a shoebox containing cassette tapes. The tapes were sent to him by a classmate who recently committed suicide and explains why she made her tragic choice.
  • Wintergirls — Laurie Halse Anderson
    Two best friends make a plan to have perfect bodies by means of bulimia and anorexia. After one friend tragically dies, the other must try to piece her life back together while still dealing with her struggles with body image and food.

 

TeenLIVE presents Ellen Hopkins
September 28, 2011

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