I absolutely LOVE Ellen Hopkins’ book, particularly her YA verse books, and so I was over the moon when my #bookishwish was granted and an ARC of People Kill People showed up on my door step! People Kill People tackles gun violence and mental illness and white supremacy and a lot of other really hot topic issues, but as always Ellen Hopkins weaves a really intriguing story. There’s a gun that’s going to go off…but who will shoot it? and why?
People Kill People begins uniquely, with a narration by the very gun that will eventually go off and take a life. From there, we “fade into” the skin of six different characters, all brought to life using the second person POV (“you”) with a little bit of push from their voice inside their heads/the gun. It’s hard to explain well until you read it, but I think the utilization of the second person works REALLY well in this instance because the point of this book is to show that lots of people have different reasons for thinking they need a gun or for even using that gun an the only person that will really understand it has to be in their own head. But let’s dive into the six characters we meet and learn about and really see over the course of less than a week.
There’s Rand, a young father who wants to one day be a cop and is surpressing memories of childhood abuse. There’s Cami, Rand’s wife and the mother of Waylon, who doesn’t have much going on for her but misses the excitement of life before motherhood. There’s Noelle, Cami’s sister who was injured in a drive-by shooting that left her friend’s father dead and left her with epileptic seizures and a less than fulfilling life. There’s Silas, a white nationalist kind of guy who thinks the white race must be preserved and is involved with the Traditional Youth Network. There’s Daniel, a Honduran-American kid living on the streets who was once beat up by Silas and his friend Tim, who is now dating Silas’s ex-girlfriend. And there’s Ashlyn, a girl with a penchant for violence who knows how to use sex to get what she wants, and now she’s fallen in with the Traditional Youth Network. With a pro-immigration rally on the horizon and the local white supremacists gearing up to fight back and two masked, and armed, robbers on the loose in Tucson, it’s a powder keg that will explode in many ways. Several shots are fired in the course of this book, but you never quite know when the narrative gun, 9, will go off, and you’re wondering the entire time who has a reason to fire, because frankly, every character does at some point.
Ellen Hopkins always tackled really really heavy issues, like abuse and drugs and prostitution, but she always handles it so well. She comes from not only an educator’s standpoint but someone who can wholly relate to and humanize these characters, because you don’t want to read a book like this if you can’t understand the characters at some point.You don’t have to like them, you’re really not supposed to, but you have to understand them and their motivations and Ellen Hopkins does that better than pretty much any other author I’ve ever read.
This book is interesting and really well done and you almost forget you’re waiting for a gun to go off and then…it does. It’s not the BEST Ellen Hopkins book I’ve ever read, but I still highly recommend it.