The short review: If you like melodrama, sex, and drugs with a little bit of violence and religious discussion, this is for you.
The long review: I'm a firm believer that reading a book at the right time is just as important as reading the book at all. This book came out on August 25, 2009, my sixteenth birthday. I went to my local bookstore (The Bookshelf) with my dad and found a copy on the display table in the front. He wasn't around much and offered to buy it as a way to make amends. I'm not about that life, so I bought it for myself and walked out with receipt in hand. At sixteen, I was going through similar things to the characters in this book. I related to it and was so glad to find a book that showed a life similar to mine. I may not have been a teenage prostitute, but my life was filled with religious fanatics and drug users. It's funny because I remember sitting down at my mom and stepdad's house, in my stepdad's beige recliner (it had cigarette burns from when Momma fell asleep) and finished it in one sitting. For years, I kept it on the shelf with my other all-time favorite books.
sixteen-year-old me wrote a review on a scrap of paper and shoved it in the back. That review has since gone missing, but the gist of it said, "I love this book. The characters are all relatable and funny, and it felt like watching a Saw movie but without any of the crazy stuff of Saw movies but the same stress level." I didn't pick up on any of the clues as to where these characters were going and just read as I went along. I'm glad I didn't have the kind of family that stopped me from reading books like this because Tricks helped me at a time when I needed it.
Flash-forward to 2018. I flipped open this book, expecting a quick and easy read. What I got instead was flashbacks to a life I'd left behind; a life I didn't want to revisit. This story is harrowing and heartbreaking. Reading this as an adult, it's much easier to read between the lines and know how horrifying the characters conclusions will be. The writing is fine, and there are moments where it really struck me as beautiful. Ellen Hopkins writes all of her books in free-verse (it's become her shtick) but it's very readable. The unevenness comes mostly in the beginning as she tries to find her footing with the storytelling. I can tell it's for a younger audience in that way. However, once you're a fifth of the way in, you're hooked.
I'd like to be clear that this is not for those of you who are sensitive to darker material. If you don't like reading about drug abuse, rape, books that talk negatively in any way about religion (this book says both good and bad things about religion, but remains respectful) then this isn't for you. I will say, I think there are books out there that handle this subject matter in a better way than Tricks. But, I still remember how much I loved this book at sixteen. I gave it five stars back then. Giving it a mediocre review would piss sixteen-year-old me off, and I know I'd send me now a strongly worded letter about why I was wrong. So, I'm giving this a positive review. Just because it was a hard read now doesn't mean I didn't need it back then. That's the funny thing about people; we change, but the books just stay the same.
I know this review isn't as much about the book as my experiences reading it, but I don't like knowing anything about a book before I start reading it, except whether or not it's gotten a positive reception. Let me know your thoughts on whether or not you'd like reviews like this in the future, or if you'd like more information about the book than provided. Thanks for reading!