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Gritty book about suicide survivors told in free verse.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Can open the door to a lot of conversations, thanks to the myriad topics it covers, including suicide, abuse, and mental illness. Parents who do a quick flip through the book first will feel more prepared for the discussion.

Positive messages

Multiple stories explore the depths of despair physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can cause. 

Positive role models

Characters who suffered from abuse and attempted suicide try to come to grips with their past and move forward. It may be hard to consider any of the protagonists role models, but they certainly are sympathetic, and readers will appreciate their brave struggles. 


Each character has tried to commit suicide, and each has suffered abuse (sexual, emotional, physical), and one character murdered his abuser. One protagonist dies violently.


Some kissing, and talk about sex and abortion. One of the protagonists mentions having had sex with a teacher.


Lots of swearing and graphic talk.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters are on medication and one character in particular talks about past drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that each of the main characters has tried to commit suicide, and each has suffered abuse (sexual, emotional, and physical). There is lots of gritty language and plotting: One character murdered his abuser as a child, another had sex with a teacher, and the third watched her mentally ill mother die. Plus, there's cutting, abortion, bi-polar disorder, over-achieving, and a character who thinks he's gay. In the end, one of the protagonists dies a rather violent death. Since the free verse makes this a quicker read, it'll make it easier for parents to preview the content ahead of their mature teens.

What's the story?

Three teens are locked up in a psychiatric facility after their suicide attempts. They each have a dark past filled with abuse, but slowly they begin to open up to one another and form tight bonds.

Is it any good?


More than 600 free-verse pages about teen suicide gets to be a bit much at times, especially as the three interconnected protagonists reveal all the trauma they've endured in their short lives. And that includes everything from sexual abuse to abortion to cutting and more. But by stringing together short lines, Hopkins is able to make each of her characters real and distinct. Along the way, readers will find themselves really caring for Vanessa, Conner, and especially warm and funny Tony, as the troubled teens start to deal with their demons, and depend on one another.

In the end, IMPULSE is a gritty and realistic book for mature teens only. It can open the door to a lot of conversations, thanks to the myriad topics it covers. Parents who do a quick flip through the book first will feel more prepared for the discussion.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Hopkins' free-verse writing style. How does it change the impact of her story? Were you able to read this book more quickly than other books?

  • The author's books are often controversial -- and challenged. Should any topic or book be off-limits for teen readers? Who should have a right to say what's appropriate for you? 

Book details

Author:Ellen Hopkins
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:January 23, 2007
Number of pages:672
Publisher's recommended age(s):14

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written bysoccersam September 19, 2011

A Rebutal to "From a Conservative Christian Point of View"

First I have to say that I have been to many different churchs through out my life, and that I am a spirtiual person. However magpiesings is way off base, the reason why the novel is good is because it is an extremly personal reading experiance. I got so much out of this novel and it went much deeper than the initial "Well three teens tried to off themselves..." I honestly believe that magpiesings can not comprehend the world of Impulse. I have lived many parts of it. I can relate to Connor when it come to dealing with his mother, my own is much the same, and I understand where Vanessa is coming from because many in my family deal with mental disorders that can be passed down, I am scared to death that I will inherate one. The fact is that just because the truth is ugly does not mean that it should be covered up or hidden from sight as magpiesings suggests. If you want to fight sucide, and the lack of God/ Spirituality in peoples lives then you need to stop acting like these things do not exist or that they should be kept hush - hush. Teens should read this because there are some valuable lessons that can be learned. Love can pull us through as learned from Tony and Vanessa. There is strength in admiting we are weak can be pulled from the healing of Vanessa and her fathers relationship. Despite all the drugs used I think that Vanessa's act of quiting the prosac on her own was also a positive message. She was able to stop using an addictive drug with out relapse and had support from others when she did it. Impulse is apporpiate because it is a way for us to fight the things we learn from reading it and a way for an individual to grow. It is acceptable because hiding reality is not. I found that the end was equal parts depressing and uplifting and might be the most valueable lesson because that is exactly what real life is like. I believe that this novel can be used as a postive educational tool in a high school setting and that if you look you can find positive messages. Be aware of your teens maturity level because there is violence, mentioning of sex and sexual relations, harsh language and medicinal drugs used in both positive and negitive ways. I first read this book when I was about 14, but I was mature for my age and had higher than average comprehension levels.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bytheONE May 18, 2011

Perfect for mature people.

This book is great for mature 13 year olds and up. It is well written, educates about substance abuse, suffering, abuse, suicide, and many other things kids should know about. Kids knowing about these kinds of things will help prevent, get help with, and stop them. There is no negative messages, only positive. The book isn't telling kids to commit suicide or do drugs, it's about getting help and figuring things out. Great book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byconcernedbrother April 9, 2010

Stay Away

This book almost made my sister kill herself. Seriously.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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