Impulse is the chronicle of three teenagers’ journeys while in an inpatient mental health program. Told via switching viewpoints (seemingly always leaving the reader on a cliffhanger), Hopkins’s novel focuses on Connor, a rich kid whose parents put so much pressure on his that he attempted suicide, Toni, an abuse victim whose mentor died recently, and Vanessa, following in her mentally ill mother’s footsteps. The three main characters end up growing close as they go through the hospital’s program, including a bit of a love triangle ensuing between them.
One of the best Ellen Hopkins books I’ve read, this novel holds your attention for almost the entire story. There’s always something new happening in the mental hospital, whether it’s a mental illness episode happening to one of the kids, a forbidden romance, or drama between the other patients and our beloved main characters. The novel is written in a poetry style, which including titles that are often also a part of the story, which makes for surprisingly smooth transitions. A wonderful young adult read, Impulse is part of a two-part series, of which the second is really the star. Both Impulse and the second, Perfect, can be read as stand-alone novels, but I recommend reading them together because of Cara’s frequent mentions in the second of her brother, Connor.
One of my favorite parts of Impulse is how blunt it is with the sins and personality defects of the main characters. They miss the mark on being antiheros, but are a few steps away from there. All that has happened to each of them really adds complexity as more and more of their histories are revealed throughout the book.
Like most young adult novels, there are definitely parts of this one that are cliché or predictable, so I would recommend this for exactly its audience, young adults. It definitely explores some themes that most young teens and preteens would not be able to appreciate nor understand, but is a bit too played out for older adults. Impulse is definitely worth the read, and even a re-read or two, but it’s not one of those novels that one would read annually, so I would definitely consider picking it up the next time you visit your local library or bookstore.