Ellen Hopkins is a fiction writer who centers her realistic stories around mental health struggles, prostitution, and addictions. She looked at the hardest parts of our society and laid them out bare for us to understand.
Many of her stories come from a place of hurt. Her daughter was crippled by addiction, and through that pain, Ellen knew that her daughter’s story should be told. Novels allow us to experience another world, and Ellen knows this.
By allowing us in, we can safely experience the stories that harm so many and understand why people become lost in the first place.
About Ellen Hopkins’ Books
Throughout her life, Ellen has dealt with rejection, upset and tough decisions. Her mother and father cared for her dearly, but they were an elderly couple, or at least in part. His adoptive father was 72 years old, and her adoptive mother was 42.
From the age gap alone we can see that Ellen had an unusual upbringing. Her father was a millionaire, and they lived among movie stars, and yet still they were considered poor by the people around them.
Ellen was in and out of bad relationships, which took a toll on her children. Her novel Crank is based on her own life. She adopted Hunter, aka Orion, in 1996 and considers him her son, not her grandson.
In total, she now has 3 grandchildren which are under her guardianship. Although Ellen’s books are works of fiction, they are all pulled from her life or the life of those close to her.
Their themes are always centered around personal growth, moral judgments, human mistakes, and struggles.
Some are Young Adult fiction, despite their difficult topics, while others are strictly Adult novels. Below I’ve listed the series first, in publication order, and the stand-alone novels after.
Ellen Hopkins’ Books In Order
The Crank series follows the main character, Kristina, and “Crank” or methamphetamine. Kristina is given the powder by her non-existent father, and through the experience discovers an alter ego.
She names this version of herself “Bree”. Bree doesn’t have the same desires as Kristina. She doesn’t care about being a gifted high schooler, or developing a good career. She isn’t a “good girl”.
Bree wants to be around the dangerous boys and explore her carnal desires. The series explores desire, mistakes, regret, and addiction. It includes:
- Tackles Teen Issues
Burned explores puberty and sensual changes while living in a strictly religious home. As Pattyn’s mind wanders, she finds herself confused and ashamed. She has no one to turn to, as bringing up her questions could lead to instant rejection, and yet she cannot find the answers without someone’s help.
The most pressing question on her mind is “What is a woman’s role”, and “What does God want?”. This series explores shame, romance, religion, and damnation. It includes:
- Interesting take on religion
- Written entirely in verse and poems
This series follows three people all on the path to Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital. The stories switch between Vanessa, Tony, and Conner who each have their own demons to fight. Following themes of mental health, abuse, and pain, the series includes:
- Different perspectives create interesting views
- Big stereotypes about mental health, which aren’t helpful to the community
Triangles follow three friends having a midlife crisis. One is worried she’s thrown her life away and so takes risky actions to find joy again. Another watches the first, resentful that she’s throwing it all away.
And the third rejected her son and disconnected from her daughter blaming her husband for his struggle to connect. The three women’s lives are intertwined by the bad decisions they make. Like dominos, they fall in line allowing someone else’s mistakes to affect their lives.
Following themes of Marital Frustration, Jealousy, and Failed Parenthood, the series includes:
- Not over-dramatized
- Connected to real mid-life crisis issues
- Beautiful poetry
- Not YA, as described
Tricks follow 5 teenagers from different backgrounds all searching for something better. When the words “I love you” are used in the wrong ways, it can change a person’s life forever. These kids are forced into the trafficking trade.
They have to grow up quickly to find safety again, learning lessons they could have done without. With themes of fake romance, abuse, teenage confusion, and loss, the series includes:
- Each character has a unique story
- Interesting concepts around false beauty
- Not as impactful as her other stories
Love Lies Beneath
Love Lies Beneath takes a different approach to Ellen’s typical genres. We start with Tara, a woman twice divorced and once widowed, hoping to keep her past to herself. She finds love again in Cavin, a handsome and charming man – she thinks he’s perfect.
That’s when she noticed cars parked outside her home, strange messages, and a break-in. On crutches she finds herself relying on Cavin and not trusting him. This thriller and mystery isn’t typical of Hopkins but is a refreshing change. It includes:
- Realistic flaws
- Confident characters
- Confusing in places
From now onward, the titles are all stand-alone novels. Identical follows a set of twins who lose their identity in a world that cannot separate them. As they get older, they search for love and acceptance by separating from one another. It’s a story of identity and family struggles.
- Heart Wrenching
- Twist Ending
Ashley and Cole are happily paired, but one thing keeps them apart. Cole is a military man, and is away at war, while Ashley finds herself looking elsewhere for love. When trying to save the country, how much collateral damage can we take?
- You know what you’re getting into
Rumble is another unexpected story from Ellen. Matthew, our main character, is an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything. Not his family, who couldn’t help his brother.
Not his friends who aren’t around when times get tough. And certainly not a God. But all that changes when he hears a rumble.
- Filled with Metaphor
- Beautiful Prose
- Hypocritical main character
- Typical “bury your gays” trope from Ellen
Ariel never knew her mother. It was always her and her dad. Mother upped and left one day, leaving the two of them alone. But 14 years later, her mom shows up and claims her father kidnapped Ariel.
- Twists and turns in the story
- Dual perspective
A murder mystery around violence and white supremacy. Someone is left dead, and too many people have a good motive. So who did it?
- Beautifully written
- 6 Perspectives
Cal and Hannah are very different people. Hannah has supportive parents, is popular in school, and is very athletic. Cal’s mother has recently died and was forced to live with his cousin.
Now Hannah’s parents are fighting, and Cal keeps getting into trouble. This is a story about finding yourself and protecting your family.
- Clever storytelling
- Realistic characters
- Some social issues feel forced
Will was everything to Trace. He was the perfect brother, someone to look up to. But everything changed when Will got into a terrible football accident. Since the brain injury, his personality has changed.
Their parents don’t know what to do, and Will is losing a grip on his identity. Trace wants to be the brother Will was to him.
- Written in verse
- Quick read
- Heartbreaking Story
- A lot of sexist comments
On one hand, Ellen Hopkins leads a privileged life. On the other hand, her entire existence has been filled with trauma. She has used these stories and turned them into teaching moments for us all.
At times, she tries to discuss concepts that are beyond her understanding. For example, the LGBT storylines often come across as offensive rather than realistic. But the tales around physical and medication abuse are heartbreakingly genuine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Old Is Ellen Hopkins?
Ellen Hopkins was born on the 26th of March 1955.
Is There A Movie for Crank?
No. The 2006 movie Crank has nothing to do with Ellen Hopkin’s novel.
When Was Crank Banned?
Crank is banned in many states. Each list added Crank to their banned list at different points, but most made the addition in 2011 – 7 years after its release.
How Many Times Has Ellen Hopkins Been Banned?
Each state and school has a different banned list. However, Tricks and Crank are the most commonly banned in Hopkin’s collection. This is due to the use of explicit illegal materials and underage interactions.