Title: Impulse (Amazon)
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: 2007
Pages: 666 (yikes!)
Genre: YA, Adult Fiction
Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital is a place for people who have played the ultimate endgame. The suicide attempt survivors portrayed in this novel tell starkly different stories, but these three embattled teens share a desperate need for a second chance. Ellen Hopkins, the author of Glass and Crank, presents another jarring, ultimately uplifting story about young people crawling back from a precipice. (Goodreads)
Kim’s Take: Sorry that I’m on a little Ellen Hopkins kick but I really liked her previous books and had to read the others! This is a stand alone book and not part of a series. Ellen Hopkins tends to write dark books, but this was by far the darkest I have read.
The story focuses on three teens battling demons which have driven them all to attempt suicide in different ways. This lands them all at Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital. Though they are all from very different backgrounds with very different problems, they seem to be drawn to each other.
Vanessa is a cutter who grew up with a mother diagnosed with severe Bipolar Disorder. Her father is in the military and often not around. Vanessa is dealing with a secret that haunts her. After a severe cutting episode, in which her little brother finds her in a pool of blood, she is sent to Aspen Springs.
Tony has never had much of a life. His mother is unstable and a drug user who consistently has men in and out the house. His father left long ago after not being able to deal with Tony’s mother. Tony was basically left behind and had very little contact with his father. When Tony takes revenge on the man who raped him as an 8-year-old, he is sentenced to juvenile hall for 8 years. When he returns to the street, he does basically anything and everything to survive. He meets a gay man, who gets him off of the street that he grows to love and is devastated when the man dies. After being found on the street, almost dead from an overdose, he is sent to Aspen Springs.
Connor comes from a very well-to-do family and is expected to be outstanding in everything he does. He is the handsome jock all the girls love. He is often compared to his twin sister and has grown up with a cold, unloving mother. After an affair with an older woman is discovered, the pressure becomes too much for him to deal with, he feels he will never find happiness, and he shoots himself in the chest. He survives and is also sent to Aspen Springs.
There are 5 levels they must work through to be considered well enough to leave the treatment facility. Level 5 consists of wilderness survival. Each of the characters discovers things within themselves, and more hope than they ever imagined. The story doesn’t end on an exactly positive note but gives hope.
Once again, it is a very dark book but I feel it is a very necessary read for those who have friends or family dealing with depression or other mental illness. There were many parts that give an accurate account of what is going through a persons head and what it feels like to believe life is hopeless, that they are failures, unimportant, creating the will to just no longer “be”.
It is a very interesting, involved, and informative read. Because Hopkins writes in prose, the book is a very quick read, so don’t let the 666 (!) pages fool you. I read it in a few hours.