Collateral by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria
Review copy received at SIBA 2012
Ashley, a student at San Diego State University, always expected that she would grow up and marry someone just like her – an intellectual, bookish type, someone who had a similar background as she and had many of the same interests. So it’s a complete surprise to her when she falls for Cole, a military man who is, on the outside, nothing like her, but she finds a passionate, smart, completely sweet guy beneath his tough exterior. Their relationship lasts five years and four deployments, and just when Cole is ready to marry Ashley, she meets someone new – someone more along the lines of who she’d always pictured herself with – and she begins to question if the military life is one she can actually see herself living for good.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m quite a fan of this author’s work. Her ability to write about incredibly difficult subjects using the most beautiful verse just does something to me. Collateral is her second book for adults (she usually writes YA) and I can definitely say it was successful.
The romance between Ashley and Cole is HOT. There are some steamy scenes in this book. While it gets quite sexy between the two of them, there is a clear element of love there and I felt that Hopkins communicated that quite well using poetry. There was a real connection between these two, one that went far deeper than their physical connection. I could feel the love and admiration they had for one another, and even when things got really hard for them, ultimately they cared about each other so much and that caring was what was so heartbreaking about their situation.
There is a very tense undercurrent running throughout the entire novel, and by the time the conclusion is reached, the tension is at a maximum – I couldn’t stop furiously turning pages until I was done reading. The whole time the reader is getting to know Ashley and Cole, it’s obvious their love is going to face serious challenges, but what exactly challenges them isn’t revealed until the very end. Hopkins did an amazing job making the reader fall in love with their relationship, while at the same time acknowledging that it was far from perfect, making the reader desperate to find out how things would turn out for them. I was shocked by the ending, but looking back it wasn’t shocking at all – Hopkins laid out their fate perfectly throughout the book, you just have to be reading closely to see what’s between the lines.
I really enjoyed Collateral and highly recommend it. I love novels in verse when they are done well, and Hopkins is a master at her craft. Not only is this a story with memorable characters and a real romance at its core, it illuminates at a terrifyingly real level what soldiers go through in their transition from military to civilian life. It’s a scary thing, something that isn’t talked about enough, but an important subject to understand. Highly recommended.