Genre: Coming of Age
Author(s): Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 09/11/2012
Hard cover Price: $18.99
Reading Level: 14-17
Other Choices: All the Broken Pieces, Inside Out and Back Again, Addie on the Inside
Synopsis: Teens grow up too fast in intense stories told in poetry.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like Hopkin's other books for teens, Tilt features gritty material, including rape, HIV, teen sex and pregnancy, the death of child, a suicide attempt, drunk driving, and more. Teens swear ("s--t," "f--k," "goddamn," "pussy," and more), drink, and make all kinds of mistakes, but they do relate their experiences honestly and learn from their bad choices in various ways. Parents can use this book to talk about a wide variety of tough topics, including teen pregnancy, HIV, rape, homophobia -- and book censorship. Readers will get the author's point that an "unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease will change your life forever."
- Families can talk about censorship. Do teens have the right to decide what they can read? Should anyone else get a say in that decision?
- Do you think books written in free verse -- like Hopkins' Glass, Impulse, and Perfect -- are easier to read? What does the style -- and the way the poems connect with one another -- convey to you?
- How do you think Tilt compares with Hopkins' other books?
What's the story?
If your teens have read Hopkins' books before, then they know the drill: 600+ pages of free-verse poetry as a cast of interconnected teen characters deal with some hot-topic issues, such as teen pregnancy and HIV. Through interwoven stories, readers get to know pregnant Mikayla, gay Shane, and Harley, who's trying on wild behavior like wearing tight clothes, drinking, and seeing a dangerous bad boy. There are some harsh plot points here: Shane falls in love with an HIV-infected boy and numbs his emotional pain with drugs and alcohol; Harley texts a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend, who sends it around, and he later rapes her while she's drunk. Through painful situations, these characters learn what they really need is time to grow up.
Is it any good?
TILT is a good choice for Hopkins' fans, who know what to expect, and for reluctant readers who will quickly get through this thick book, since it is written in free verse and covers such provocative material. Readers also might appreciate that this book features imperfect families, including abusive or alcoholic parents, new stepparents, estranged parents, and more. It's a bit overstuffed, as the author puts her poor protagonists through trial after trial -- teen pregnancy, dating someone with HIV, a dying sister, a rape, a suicide attempt, and more. But readers will appreciate that the three leading teens emerge damaged but not defeated.
The Good Stuff
Educational Value: The free verse makes Tilt a good choice for reluctant readers who will quickly get through this thick book. Parents can use it to talk about a wide variety of tough topics, including teen pregnancy, HIV, rape, homophobia -- and book censorship. The author includes facts about HIV and teen pregnancy at the back of the book.
Role Models: None of the teen protagonists acts perfectly, but they do relate their experiences honestly and learn from their bad choices in various ways.
What to watch out for
Violence A girl is raped while she's drunk, and another teen character tries to kill himself. There's a bloody fistfight between boys, and a mention of an abusive husband who beat his wife and child. A teen boy recalls that his uncle's brother molested him when he was a child, infecting him with HIV. Also, a severely disabled child dies.
Sex: Descriptions of sex and sex acts, including masturbation, oral sex, and sex between two teen boys. A character has HIV, a girl has an abortion, and another girl is pregnant. A teen boy texts to friends a naked picture of the girl he is seeing.
Language: Mature language, including "s--t" and "f--k," plus words like "goddamn," "pussy," and more.
Consumerism: Coke, Bacardi 51, Jaggermeister, as well as bands and few products, such as Wranglers and Stove Top.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Teens drink and do drugs, including marijuana and pills. One teen uses antidepressants and Jaggermeister in a suicide attempt. A teen drives drunk, and a girl is raped when she passes out from alcohol. A father drinks to not have to deal with his crumbling family.