The highlight of the Colorado Teen Lit Conference for me was hearing from Matt de la Pena, author of Mexican Whiteboy, and Ellen Hopkins, author of numerous novels in verse. On Friday evening I was fortunate to be invited to a dinner where I met both authors. On Saturday each author gave a keynote speech. I have always wondered what led Ellen Hopkins to the dark topics she addresses. She shared the anguish she experienced when her beloved daughter got involved with meth and ultimately ended up in jail. She said her first novel in verse, Crank, was her way of working through the turmoil she felt. She received such a positive response to the novel that she knew she had found her niche. Her latest book, Tricks, chronicles the lives of kids driven to prostitution. The story is narrated by five teens whose lives finally converge in Las Vegas. Seth, an Indiana farm boy, is kicked off his family farm when his parents find out he's gay. He follows a controlling sugar daddy to Las Vegas. In Boise, Eden's first romantic relationship leads her Pentecostal parents to declare that she is possessed by demons. They send her to Tears of Zion reform camp, where ironically she turns to prostituting herself to engineer an escape. In California Whitney, who yearns for male attention any way she can get it, ends up involved with a pimp who takes her to Las Vegas. Ginger, realizes that the rapes she's endured as a child, were arranged by her mother in exchange for cash. They all end up in Las Vegas where Cody, who has a gambling addiction he pays for with money he's earned selling his body, is attempting to deal with his grief when his stepfather dies. Hopkins does a wonderful job helping the reader understand the desperation that leads the teens to prostitution, as well as how difficult it is to extricate themselves once they've traveled down that road.
I'm off to Bali tomorrow. I have Matt de la Pena's latest novel, We Were Here, on my Kindle and plan to read it on the trip. I will share my thoughts about it with you soon.