Review of “Triangles” by Ellen Hopkins

31 Oct

Posted by Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian.

I received this Good Reads giveaway and was eagerly awaiting Hopkins’ first foray into adult fiction.  She brings her well established YA novel-in-verse format to this story of 3 women and their rather trouble- laden lives. Unfortunately, I felt that Hopkins missed the mark with this effort.  But full disclosure here: this qualifies as somber chick lit, and I like very few chick lit novels.

The book is set up with sort of chaptered vignettes with each woman narrating.  They each have kids, two have husbands.  Any particular section concludes with a free verse poem which tries to encapsulate the thematic contents of the narration.  A couple of those were fairly well done, but most did not work for me.  They felt sophomoric and unnecessary, and by the end I was just passing them by. I kept thinking, Hopkins, you really can’t write poetry because these are just awful.

Only Marissa’s character held any appeal to me; Holly and Andrea were clearly stuck in high school – their actions and choices were so adolescent it was embarrassing.  Holly, as a sexual outlier, never captured my empathy, sympathy, or even pity.  Hard to do that when her reaction to her husband treating her as a possession equates to joining swing groups where she’s a mere object of other men and people.

In fact, there are only two male characters who are respectable in this book – Marissa’s longtime friend, Drew, and her son, Shane, who by the way is gay.  And Hopkins takes full advantage of that fact to preach about homophobia.

Marissa herself has been forced to grow up because of her daughter Shelby.  The rest of them, well, their lives are train wrecks of their own making.  I do understand Holly’s lifelong search for self as an adoptee, but I don’t think most adoptees pursue that search in such a manner.  I felt a lot of the explicit sexual encounters were totally unnecessary, and diminished whatever power her story might have had. Those parts of the narrative felt to me as if Hopkins were aiming at titillation and controversy, bordering on soft porn, and not the mark of a great writer.  Perhaps Hopkins was trying to show that Holly had no talent for writing, although I am not an expert on the erotica genre.  Those parts just felt pointless, when one can often create more lasting impressions with less explicit words.

Many times, especially at the end, I think Hopkins started in on preaching.  She didn’t really need to do that; could have let the story show the lessons.  The relationship lessons that Andrea’s and Marissa’s hippie/free love parents try to impart felt accurate.  But I am not really sure what her whole point was anyway –  I think it was something about love, but what, really?  There were clearly triangular relationships throughout the novel, although the one triangle I was expecting – where all 3 women are connected in a triangle – never happened.  Andrea is actually the center between Holly and Marissa, not a triangle.

All in all a very disappointing book.  I do, however, appreciate the giveaway from Simon and Schuster!! Perhaps the next one will warrant a better review.


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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


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