Less artistically sharp than most of her oeuvre, this newest from Hopkins will nonetheless hook fans with its addictive pain and quick-turning pages.
Mikayla, almost 18, sneaks out to have lots of sex with her boyfriend. Shane, 16, falls for his first boyfriend, who’s HIV-positive. Harley’s a 13-year-old late bloomer (for this community) striving not to be. How many real issues can one book hold before soapiness ensues? Alcohol, drugs, rape, infidelity, emotional disconnection, terminal illness, homophobia, teen pregnancy—etc. Threads among the three protagonists (Shane and Harley are cousins; Harley’s best friend is Mikayla’s sister) expand into a web of multiple narrators from greater Reno, which dilutes focus. Conversely, it supplies a potent variety of first-person perspectives, from Shane’s 4-year-old sister Shelby, unable to walk or speak because she has spinal muscular atrophy, to weed-seller Lucas, prowling for “virgin meat.” Hopkins’ fast-paced, free-verse poems, conveying bare shards of thought, work best for characters who are dissociated (Impulse, 2006; Identical, 2008); here, as in Perfect (2011), the characters are more bored, angry and struggling than dissociated, so the format’s a mismatch for—and gives mixed messages about—their level of emotional presence.
Brimming with shoes about to drop (some do, some don’t) and the drama her fans devour, this will (and should) point them toward Triangles (2011), an adult-aimed version from the protagonists’ mothers’ perspective. Why not? (Verse fiction. 12-18)