This isn't my first time reading verse, but rather my fourth (I think. AUDITION, LOVE AND LEFTOVERS, and MAY B. come to mind). I've said before that the style verse offers is lovely and complex, but lacks the full immersion of a prose novel. I feel like it's all introspective, and other things aren't fleshed out in the fashion I'm accustomed to. I didn't have this issue with TILT. In fact, I discovered why readers have said that Ellen Hopkins' books pack emotional punches. While still introspective, there is so much going on that I never felt as though character development (even secondary) suffered. As Ashley from Basically Amazing Books has told me before, with the right author behind the wheel, verse takes you deeper than you ever thought possible.
Part of the reason for this connection surely comes from the rawness Hopkins reveals as she embraces the dark side of daily life. She doesn't flinch away from hard-hitting issues. Her books are about life. Every day, teenagers experience drugs, sex, divorce, and other hot-button issues. In TILT, Hopkins explores HIV, teen pregnancy, siblings with terminal illness, abusive relationships, coming out and learning to be comfortable in one's own skin. These are only a few of the topics making up the fabric of the characters' world. While at first it was hard to sink into the story's cadence due to the way it was hard to tell one POV from another (Thanks to the nature of verse, not Hopkins' ability by any means) within three or four POV rotations with each character, I had a handle on who they were and where they were going. While I predicted a few late paths the novel would take toward the end, I was still surprised because Hopkins handled each one in a unique, unpredictable way.
TILT is a companion to TRIANGLES, Hopkins' first adult verse novel, in a way I didn't understand before reading both the author's note and the novel itself. TRIANGLES is from the viewpoint of adults, while TILT is through the eyes of the children of the adults from TRIANGLES. The same occurrences rip everyone's daily lives apart, yet the perspective is different. In TILT, we're privy to snippets of overheard adult conversation, but we don't know what's going on in their lives. In a way, I became a voyeur and wanted to know the other side of the story. Initially, I wasn't interested in TRIANGLES because I knew the characters were older and going through experiences still foreign to me. I'd heard a lot Hopkins' audience wasn't relating to it because of this, and I felt included. After reading TILT, I believe there's one more way to read TRIANGLES, since I've now experienced one side of the story. It's intriguing that together, these two novels make up a whole, even as they're able to be read as stand-alones.
While I've always been ambivilent about whether or not to read Hopkins, TILT has shown me that she has so much more to offer than I ever imagined possible. And the writing. I think I threw more Goodreads quotes up as I was reading than ever before, and there were even more I wanted to share that didn't necessarily work out of context.
Hopkins' books are dark, gritty, and raw. They're unflinchingly honest and not for everyone. If you want something a little rougher around the edges that doesn't promise the perfect Happily Ever After story, pick up one of her verse novels and try something new. You won't be disappointed.