While not razor-edged like her previous work, Hopkins’ portrait of four 12th-graders who are expected to be perfect will nonetheless keep teens up all night reading.
In a Reno suburb, expectations take heavy tolls. Trying to excel at baseball and get into Stanford, Sean takes steroids and spirals into rage and rape. Kendra does pageants but wants to model, so she schedules plastic surgery and stops eating. Andre takes dance lessons in secret, funding them with money that his wealthy, status-conscious parents give him for fashionable sweaters. Cara seems faultless at everything from cheerleading to grades, but she’s falling in love with a girl. The four first-person narrations are set in different type and have mildly different styles, but the free verse lacks Hopkins’ trademark sharp, searing brittleness. However, the less-sharp tone works here, because these characters are more depressed than dissociated. The ostensible focus on perfection is a coping mechanism against families that are absent, cold and brutally silent, so the consequences—anorexia, drugs, booze, rape, delusion, deception—all ring true. It also rings true that some characters buckle, worst off at the story’s end, while others find themselves and may make it.This page-turner pulls no emotional punches; readers should find Impulse (2007) first, because this is a sequel at heart, and knowing the prior work in advance adds crucial layers of meaning. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-17)