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Monday, January 9, 2012

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins (Audiobook Review)

Triangles: A Novel by Ellen Hopkins
Narrated by: January LaVoy, Jan Maxwell, Janel Moloney, Michele Pawk
Grade: 2.5 stars out of 5
Length of Production (Unabridged):  8 hours and 14 minutes
Published: Simon and Schuster Audio in 2011
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio

This (audio)book is for mature readers! I will try to keep this PG-13, but things that I do think might offend somebody will be hidden(ish). 

A triangle is a three-sided polygon. There’s obtuse, acute, and, ever so perfect, equilateral triangle. My geometry teacher would be so proud knowing that I remember that. Triangles, however, is a novel about 3 women dealing with life’s hiccups (or in this case, backhanded slaps). All 3 women are connected by blood and by friendship. 
Holly: tied down in her own home; she wants to escape.
Andrea: looking for a relationship like what Holly has with her husband, Jace.
Marissa: dealing a terminally ill daughter, a rebellious gay son, and a husband that’s never home (and continuously hitting up that alcohol).
Having never read any of Hopkins work, but heard the great praise I was eager to start Triangles. As I hit midway through the story I realize maybe it wasn’t for the best that Triangles was my first Hopkins novel.

First off with the audiobook you lose her style of writing. Her verse prose comes across as regular paragraph writing. I’ve read sections of Triangles (from the physical book) and when it’s laid out it has more life. There are mini-breaks in-between chapters, which has two poems in one: one where you can read left to right from up to down; and there’s this single phrase from the title straight down on the left-hand side that is beautiful. With the audiobook you can’t experience the different ways how Hopkins chose to write Triangles  you can’t see the creativity and the work that was put in. You can only listen.

Secondly, with the voice narration I had trouble finding a definite distinction between Marissa and Holly. I went by context as to who was who rather than just listening and immediately knowing. With Andrea’s narrator, she didn’t change her tone often enough for me. She sounded indifferent and slightly exasperated (with a whiny pitch) throughout most of the CDs and by the words coming out her mouth, I expected something else. The narration for the inbetween sections that try to connect the different character chapters (but it’s not really needed) I thought was the best. It gave me the right tone with a loud voice.

Overall I didn’t have much trouble with the audiobook. Every word came out crystal clear, no static, no murmuring.

My third problem with Triangles was the characters. Will you find these girls and guys in real life? Probably. Will you want to immediately punch most of them in the face once they tell you their story? I would.

Holly is my least favorite character out of all 3. In fact she’s the only character whom I really hated. Let’s play pretend:

If you and your partner were having issues in the bed since nothing is doing it for you, would you:
  1. communicate and try to spice things up
  2. you know what you like so just finish it off by yourself, hint hint
  3. start writing erotica, join a critique group, have sex with 2 of the 4 (5?) people in your critique group. Eventually end up having a foursome with your NOT husband in public. <--small spoiler so highlight to read.
If you say 3, congratulations you are a Holly and you officially suck. (And by suck I mean that in the most nonsexual connotation.)

But seriously it’s like me doing badly on an exam. Instead of getting a tutor or talking to the teacher for help, I run away from home and join a circus for the rest of my life. Jumping the gun aren’t we?

Holly’s sections are the most sexually explicit scenes. She has sexapades and experimentations that are not made from public reading (or listening), which is why I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone under the age of 18. (Even then I wonder how young are the kids when they are mature to read about sex. It seems as though there’s plenty of teenage pregnancies.) Here’s a snippet of what I’m talking about: (sexual, so highlight to read)
‘“Now that you’re wet, I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to.” He slips one finger inside me. Two. Three. At four, the pressure becomes terrific. But when I squirm, he gives my arms a warning tug. “No. Hold still.”

 I do and he works his entire hand into that narrow place. And, over the flashing silver pain, I shudder orgasm. “That’s my girl.”’
Holly was the most difficult to like because quite frankly I just wanted to hit her. Did she try to communicate to anyone? No. Hardly anyone in Triangles tried to talk to other people to help with their problems and eventually it became this giant ball of yarn: entangled and never-ending. Victims do not have to stay as victims. Am I encouraging people to who have been cheated on to have revenge sex with someone else? Of course not, but there other ways to get your point across.

I found Holly to be one-dimensional. She is this 'itch whose actions reflect that. Sure there are one and two scenes with her children, but it's far and few with nothing fleshed out as if it's a passerby comment.

Andrea and Marissa are not the strongest characters I’ve come across. Andrea has an unfortunate string of bad luck with men, but her life isn’t disastrously horrible. For me, it was Marissa’s story that stole the limelight. It was powerful, raw, and something you worry about in the future. Shelby is the angel in her eye, but at age 4 she doesn’t have much longer to live. It’s tragic. Your emotions cannot help but pour out. On top of that, she’s dealing with a teenage gay son whose father isn’t the most accepting of his sexual preference. And he’s doing drugs. 

And a character was raped. And someone is HIV positive. And there’s a teenage pregnancy. And there are abandonment issues. And cheating. There are lots and lots of cheating with emotional and physical acts of adultery. (Revenge cheating definitely makes everything so much better.)

My fourth reason why I wasn’t a huge fan of the book: Ellen Hopkins shoves too many problems in a not-so-tiny book. Really, let’s stick a son/daughter who’s a solider in the war against Afghanistan then we’ll have everything. Eventually you wonder if this is the most ill-fortuned group of people you’ve ever read in a book. (Answer: It’s pretty darn close.) I understand that Hopkins is leading the charge of writing books outside of the comfort zone, but there is a limit. No need to hit the reader with a mallet to get your point across—life sucks, deal with it. I get it. A girl can get lost and frustrated with a book like this.

Jerry! Jerry!
The ending did nothing for me. Three of the couples needed marriage counseling or just break up. But they most likely won’t. Because no one really talks in this book. The person who Andrea ends up with came from nowhere.

Let’s end this review in a positive note. Triangles is filled with flawed characters who would make a dynamic episode of Jerry Springer. There’s enough heart wrenching scenes to make me think about my own life and what is means and what could happen. It’s a powerful tale, just not one I will be reading again.


  1. I've read some of her YA books and I agree that audio wouldn't work well for the verse format.

    I haven't really been interested in this book for many of the reasons you mention. I HATE when the characters have problems yet don't talk to anyone ever about them. And really? Option 3?? Holly is officially crazy!!

    1. It was very odd hearing it audio since I was expecting a verse novel when instead it came out like a regular novel.

      Ugh ugh Holly. I've read some strange characters before but she's too extreme for me.

  2. I was surprised when I saw the cover of this novel. I've never seen a Hopkins novel with a cover like this, usually I see the rather simplistic covers with just the title.

    I've always been wary of reading her books because of content, and this doesn't make me any less so.

    1. This is her debut adult novel so I guess that explains the more raunchy cover. I think if they did a simple cover like the rest, people will confuse it for her YA novels. Seeing as how TRIANGLES is definitely not for the YA audience, it's a good thing.