Book: Collateral

Author: Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of Triangles and the Crank trilogy. She writes both Adult and Young Adult fiction.

Genre: Romance

Reviewers: Bookseller Pam, day care teacher EMarie, accountant Gina aka Slappy, professor Michal and teacher Ninian.

Publisher’s Summary: Meet Ashley, a graduate student at San Diego State University. She was raised in northern California reading poetry and singing backupin her best friend’s band. The last thing she ever expected was to end up a military wife. But one night, she meets a handsome Marine named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man she’d always presumed to be true; he’s passionate and romantic, and he even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a deeply felt, sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole desperately wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a college professor, with similar professional pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.

Written in Ellen Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateralcaptures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. While those at home may be far from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, they, too, sacrifice their lives and happiness for their country at war. And all must eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage it causes is worth the fight.

Pam   Bio

I really didn’t like this book, and yet I couldn’t wait to pick it up again and keep reading. While the story is compelling (although a little rough, jumping around in time frequently), the free verse is just too distracting, especially considering that Ashley is supposed to be a talented poet. Add to that additional poems by Ashley, as well as Cole, and you get a poetic mishmash of styles.

While Ashley and Cole’s relationship starts out nicely, things quickly sour. It’s tough to read a book where you spend most of the time wanting to yell at a character to leave a bad situation. I suppose some of this is true to life for military relationships, but it made the story a bit harder to read by repeatedly and unrelentlessly driving the point home. Something a tiny bit subtler would have worked just as well (maybe even better).

Grade: C


EMarie  Bio

I do not like poetry, I can safely say. However, this book is great! This is not a book of separate poems; instead, Ellen Hopkins uses her poetry to tell the story. While I went into this book expecting it to be hard to understand and worded for poetry, it is, alternatively, masterfully written. At no point and time did I have to guess what point she was trying to make, or wonder if my interpretations were actually what she meant for me to get from the reading.

Tthis story is written in an eloquent, original style. Hopkins outdid herself with this book, and I would recommend it to both poetry fans and people who normally avoid poetry alike. The story made me look at my own life and my relationship; opening up areas of thought that many people overlook. She asked questions and discussed issues that many people worry about. This made it even easier for me to love the story. Not everyone may be able to relate to the military aspect of the book, but the relationship questions are things that normal in many relationships. This book is a must read.

Grade: A


Gina aka Slappy  Bio

I tried to get into this book, I really did. I almost gave up on it just a few pages in. I had no idea that it was written in poetry format. Some people might not mind that or might even love how different it is. I did not. I read as a stress reliever and I don’t want reading to be difficult. I tried to keep going, but only managed to make it about a fourth of the way through before I closed it for good.

I loved the story and really wish I could have stuck with it, but I just couldn’t.

Grade: C


Michal  Bio

I haven’t read any of Ellen Hopkins’ other books but from flipping through them at bookstores I know that they’re written in free verse. I was uncertain at first when I read the inside jacket of “Collateral” because three of the characters were poets. I’m not a huge poetry fan and so I wasn’t sure if reading this would end up being a trial. In the end, it was anything but. You quickly forget that you’re reading a non-traditional format because the characters, especially Ashley and Cole, are so compelling and vibrant. The story follows Ashley struggling to come to terms with her boyfriend Cole, a Marine who is about to be sent out on his fourth deployment. Their story is supplemented by flashbacks revealing when they started dating, their fights, relationships with their families and ex/potential lovers, the previous deployments. Additionally, their relationship is paralleled with Ashley’s best friend Darian, who married a Marine and deals with the same but also very different struggles. I imagine that almost any and all situations military couples can find themselves in are reflected within these 500 pages and I felt that Hopkins’ gripping characters and plot, not the format, are what carries the reader through the book.

This book might be tough for couples currently in military relationships who may see their reflections in any of the characters, but I think may be good for those who don’t understand how different a military relationship is from any other long-distance relationship. Don’t shy away from this book if you’re not a fan of poetry either: if you look closely, you can see some poignant little hidden messages, especially in the poems that Cole writes, which was personally my favorite part.

Grade: A- 


Ninian  Bio

Short line breaks do not a poem make. Collateral is advertised as a “novel in
verse” and being that I’m a poet, I was excited to read the novel.

This book is completely prosaic. There is no distillation, no evocation of meaning,
there is nothing replacing the prosaic, ostensible meaning of the words. She just
broke the lines in funny places.

My objection to this book being called poetry registered, I gave the story a
chance. As a story, it was merely okay. I found the storyline predictable, right
down to the ending.

And then there was “Cole’s” poetry. I was hoping it would be good, it would
actually be poetry. Sadly, it was gimmicky and unimpressive and I quickly grew
tired of the “sentence within the poem”.

Grade: D

Read instead: Home Front by Kristin Hannah


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Thanks to Atria Books for providing our readers with copies of Collateral for review. You ca find them on Twitter and on Facebook.  Author Ellen Hopkins is on Goodreads, on Twitter and on her website.

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