Saturday, 8 October 2011

Book Review: Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

Book:  Triangles by Ellen Hopkins, Atria Books, release date Oct. 18. 2011, 544 pages, adult fiction.

Source:  ARC received from the publisher.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In this first adult novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the unforgettable Crank trilogy, three female friends face midlife crises in a no holds-barred exploration of sex, marriage, and the fragility of life.

Ellen Hopkins has made her mark as the wildly popular author of several novels for young adults—every one of them a New York Times bestseller, and every one a hard-hitting exploration of tough-to-tackle topics. Now, in Triangles, Hopkins brings her storytelling mastery and fearlessness to take on the challenges of adult dramas.

In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.

My Thoughts:
Triangles is about three women whose lives intersect cleverly, written in poetry, with a play on triangles and parallel and intersecting lives.  Each of the three women is dealing with a midlife crisis:  there is stay at home mom Holly who, outwardly, is living the perfect life with a big house, two kids and a loving husband but who secretly is very bored and dissatisfied and wants to experiment sexually; Andrea, Holly's friend, is a single mom who has given up on men and thinks Holly is crazy for taking what she has for granted; and Marissa, Andrea's sister, who is in a bad marriage, has a gay teenaged son and spends her days looking after her terminally ill daughter.

The three main characters are real feeling and full of flaws.  We are seeing them at very difficult times in their lives and watching them act out, in many ways.  Through her poetry, Hopkins is able to intimately connect the reader with the character.  She takes turns with the point of view of each of the main characters thoughout the book, so we have a chance to get into the heads of each of the women.  I really felt for them in some cases and was horrified by them in others - Hopkins was able to create a deep, provocative connection with the characters, whether I liked them or not.

The poetry in the book is interesting and beautiful at times, as well as being quite readable.  I loved how Hopkins played with words and themes for each section of the book, and even how she placed the words on the page.  At times the form echoed the meaning of the words.  Each section ended with a word or phrase that became the theme of the poem for the the next section, which created a poetic continuity to the book.  This was masterful and thoughtful.

I also enjoyed how sparce the words were sometimes and how not everything was layed out.  There were a lot of details left to the imagination, like we stepped into the middle of these women's lives with an expectation that we understand their background.  This added to the intimacy of the book.

Part of what Hopkins does in this novel is to push the characters and this sometimes manifests in explicit scenes. There are so many interesting themes in this book, primarily sex, marriage and love, but also betrayal, jealousy and friendship amongst others.  I would recommend this book for those who like women's liturature or who are looking for something different or who wants to try reading a novel written in poetry. 


  1. I finished this yesterday I really enjoyed it. I also totally agree with everything you said in your review.

    ~Happy Reading!

  2. Thanks, it was an interesting book.

  3. Thanks so much for the completely thoughtful review.

  4. Thanks Ellen, I really enjoyed reading your book.


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