Cover image for Impulse / Ellen Hopkins.
Impulse / Ellen Hopkins.


1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, ©2007.
Physical Description:
666 pages ; 19 cm
Three teens who meet at Reno, Nevada's Aspen Springs mental hospital after each has attempted suicide connect with each other in a way they never have with their parents or anyone else in their lives.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning UG 4.5 8.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
HOP Paperback Teen Collection
HOP Book Teen Collection

On Order



Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same.

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act -- suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.

And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.

In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun -- and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other's help, they can find their way to a better life -- but only if they're strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

Author Notes

Ellen Hopkins was born in Long Beach, California on March 26, 1955. She started her writing career with a number of nonfiction books for children, including Air Devils and Orcas: High Seas Supermen. She has written about 20 non-fiction books. Her first novel, Crank, was written in verse and met with critical acclaim. Her other fiction works include Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, Collateral, Smoke and Traffick, which made the New York Times Best-Seller list in 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hopkins (Crank) weaves together the story of three troubled teens locked up in a psychological facility after suicide attempts, once again writing in artful free verse. Each character is full-bodied and distinct. Conner is a wealthy overachiever who had an affair with a teacher; Tony, who thinks he is gay, was locked up in juvenile detention center for years after killing his mother's child-molesting boyfriend; Vanessa is a manic-depressive who cuts herself to "hush the demons/ shrieking inside my brain." All three have attempted suicide. As they begin to open up to their counselor-and each other-they reveal an almost unbelievable amount of grittiness in their backgrounds. Vanessa, for example, found her own mother dying after an overdose and did not call for an ambulance, and had a boyfriend who "wouldn't even hold/ my hand" while she was waiting to have an abortion. But readers will find themselves invested in the characters by the time the three head to their outdoor challenge-the final piece of their program-and can finally divulge their darkest secrets to one another (Tony and Vanessa even form an unexpected romance). This is a thick book, but the free verse makes for a fast read. By book's end, readers may well feel the effects of each protagonist's final choice. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Three teenagers who share a history of suicidal behavior meet in a psychiatric hospital. Reflecting on issues of sexual abuse, abortion, and homosexuality, their conversations and interior monologues weave back and forth amid the hundreds of terse but unremarkable poems that constitute this verse novel. The characters, though sympathetic, lack depth; the melodramatic plot, despite its shock-factor appeal, lacks tension. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.



Without Warning Sometimes you're traveling a highway, the only road you've ever known, and wham! A semi comes from nowhere and rolls right over you. Sometimes you don't wake up. But if you happen to, you know things will never be the same. Sometimes that's not so bad. Sometimes lives intersect, no rhyme, no reason, except, perhaps, for a passing semi. Triad Three separate highways intersect at a place no reasonable person would ever want to go. Three lives that would have been cut short, if not for hasty interventions by loved ones. Or Fate. Three people, with nothing at all in common except age, proximity, and a wish to die. Three tapestries, tattered at the edges and come unwoven to reveal a single mutual thread. The Thread Wish you could turn off the questions, turn off the voices, turn off all sound. Yearn to close out the ugliness, close out the filthiness, close out all light. Long to cast away yesterday, cast away memory, cast away all jeopardy. Pray you could somehow stop the uncertainty, somehow stop the loathing, somehow stop the pain. Conner Arrival The glass doors swing open, in perfect sync, precisely timed so you don't have to think. Just stroll right in. I doubt it's quite as easy to turn around and walk back outside, retreat to unstable ground. Home turf. An orderly escorts me down spit-shined corridors, past tinted Plexiglas and closed, unmarked doors. Mysteries. One foot in front of the other, counting tiles on the floor so I don't have to focus the blur of painted smiles, fake faces. A mannequin in a tight blue suit, with a too-short skirt (and legs that can wear it), in a Betty Boop voice halts us. I'm Dr. Boston. Welcome to Aspen Springs. I'll give you the tour. Paul, please take his things to the Redwood Room. Aspen Springs. Redwood Room. As if this place were a five-star resort, instead of a lockdown where crazies pace. Waiting. At Least It doesn't have a hospital stink. Oh yes, it's all very clean, from cafeteria chairs to the bathroom sink. Spotless. But the clean comes minus the gag-me smell, steeping every inch of that antiseptic hell where they excised the damnable bullet. I wonder what Dad said when he heard I tried to put myself six feet under -- and failed. I should have put the gun to my head, worried less about brain damage, more about getting dead. Finis. Instead, I decided a shot through the heart would make it stop beating, rip it apart to bleed me out. I couldn't even do that right. The bullet hit bone, left my heart in one piece. In hindsight, luck wasn't with me that day. Mom found me too soon, or my pitiful life might have ebbed to the ground in arterial flow. I thought she might die too, at the sight of so much blood and the thought of it staining her white Armani blouse. Conner, what have you done? she said. Tell me this was just an accident. She never heard my reply, never shed a tear. I Don't Remember Much after that, except for speed. Ghostly red lights, spinning faster and faster, as I began to recede from consciousness. Floating through the ER doors, frenzied motion. A needle's sting. But I do remember, just before the black hole swallowed me, seeing Mom's face. Her furious eyes followed me down into sleep. It's a curious place, the Land of Blood Loss and Anesthesia, floating through it like swimming in sand. Taxing. After a while, you think you should reach for the shimmering surface. You can't hold your breath, and even if you could, it's dark and deep and bitter cold, where nightmares and truth collide, and you wonder if death could unfold fear so real. Palpable. So you grope your way up into the light, to find you can't move, with your arms strapped tight and overflowing tubes. And everything hits you like a train at full speed. Voices. Strange faces. A witches' stewpot of smells. Pain. Most of all, pain. Tony Just Saw A new guy check in. Tall, built, with a way fine face, and acting too tough to tumble. He's a nutshell asking to crack. Wonder if he's ever let a guy touch that pumped-up bod. They gave him the Redwood Room. It's right across from mine -- the Pacific Room. Pretty peaceful in here most of the time, long as my meds are on time. Ha. Get it? Most of the time ,if my meds are on time. If you don't get it, you've never been in a place like this, never hung tough from one med call till the next. Wasted. That's the only way to get by in this "treatment center." Nice name for a loony bin. Everyone in here is crazy one way or another. Everyone. Even the so-called doctors. Most of 'em are druggies. Fucking loser meth freaks. I mean, if you're gonna purposely lose your mind, you want to get it back some day. Don't you? Okay, maybe not. I Lost My Mind A long time ago, but it wasn't exactly my idea. Shit happens, as they say, and my shit literally hit the fan. But enough sappy crap. We were talking drugs. I won't tell you I never tried crystal, but it really wasn't my thing. I saw enough people, all wound up, drop over the edge, that I guess I decided not to take that leap. I always preferred creeping into a giant, deep hole where no bad feelings could follow. At least till I had to come up for air. I diddled with pot first, but that tasty green weed couldn't drag me low enough. Which mostly left downers, "borrowed" from medicine cabinets and kitchen cabinets and nightstands. Wherever I could find them. And once in a while -- not often, because it was pricey and tough to score -- once in a while, I tumbled way low, took a ride on the H train. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about. A hot shot clear to hell. Copyright (c) 2007 by Ellen Hopkins Excerpted from Impulse by Ellen Hopkins All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.