Book Review: tricks

by Melissa on March 11, 2010 · 0 comments

in 14-17, ATOS 3.0-3.9, Lexile 500-599

Title: tricks
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Lexile: [?] HL590L
ATOS Level: [?] 3.8
Parent Rating:
VN:F [1.9.7_1111]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
goSTOP For Ages: 14-17


Five teenagers from different parts of the country. Three girls. Two guys. Four straight. One gay. Some rich. Some poor. Some from great families. Some with no one at all. All living their lives as best they can, but all searching . . . for freedom, safety, community, family, love. What they don’t expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words, “I love you,” are said for all the wrong reasons. These are five moving stories that remain separate at first, then weave together to tell a larger, more powerful story–a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up. And figuring out what sex and love are all about.


Parents are very strongly cautioned to read this book before your child does, especially younger teens.  The amount and detail of sex is vast.  As is the drug use.  The book follows 5 teens who end up becoming prostitutes. Elements of real life-sadly, maybe- but very dark.


Level 1, 2, and 3 [?]

Sexual Content

 A teen boy who is gay seeks out his first ‘real sex’ experience online. Reference to a teen boy viewing porn on the Internet.  A teen girl seeks information online about losing her virginity.  Many different kinds of sex referenced and described, very detailed.  A teen girl is prostituted by her mother, from as young as age 10.


A lot of drug and alchol use by teens and adults: cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, meth, crack, heroine. The teens are often high or drunk during some of the more disturbing sexual content, or as an escape from those memories.


Child abuse, some bullying, some teen fighting. The most disturbing content involves how the lives of these teens slip into despair and into such dark places.


Word usage: ‘fags’, boy talks of being molested by priest. Teen boy talks about discovering he is gay, can’t tell his father. A boy uses his stepdad’s credit cards to attempt to make money for the family with online gaming.  A pretty complicated family situation with a mom who is a prostitute and addicted to drugs.  Divorce, neglect, and child abuse are all present in the stories.   No one defends or notices the despair the kids are in, including their parents. There is some redemption at the end of the story for most of the characters.


Speaking in tongues (Pentecostal), born-again. Some bashing on mainstream religious and practices, a mom states that getting pregnant before marriage makes her ‘a whore in God’s eyes’, God ‘getting back at gays’.  A teen girl is sent to a religious rehab camp to get rid of her demons when her mother finds out she is having sex.  At the camp, she prostitutes herself to a staff member to escape.

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