(2009), a young adult verse novel by Ellen Hopkins, is the first in the Tricks
duology. It tells five separate stories which interweave to become a single story about growing up, making tough choices, and accepting who you are. It’s very popular with young adult readers, librarians, and critics. In 2009, Tricks
was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction. Hopkins, a prolific writer for young adults, is also a New York Times
The characters in Tricks
are teenagers living across the U.S. There are five main protagonists: Eden, who must keep her boyfriend a secret from her religious family; Seth, who struggles with his sexuality and losing his mother to cancer; Cody, who lives with his stepfather and has a problem with alcohol; Whitney, who has a poor relationship with her mother; and Ginger, who struggles with recurring sexual abuse and a neglectful, abusive mother.Tricks
looks at how each of these characters from different backgrounds becomes involved in the world of prostitution. Although their reasons vary, they all face similar challenges and dangers in this underworld; this is where their stories converge.
Eden’s father is a church minister, and she’s taught to stay away from boys. When her parents discover she’s seeing Andrew, who doesn’t come from a religious family, they demand she stops seeing him. She refuses to listen and continues dating Andrew.
Her father decides she’s being controlled by demonic influences and sends her to a rehabilitation camp called Tears of Zion. However, Eden doesn’t want to do menial labor with no luxuries. Instead, she offers sexual favors in exchange for more freedom and better food. She manages to escape Tears of Zion, but she doesn’t return home. Instead, she heads to Vegas and becomes a prostitute to pay for lodgings, food, and clothes. She’s saved from this path when a chance visit to church connects her with Father Gregory who encourages her to try something else.
Seth has his own problems with sex and relationships. His dad is very conservative and, without his mother to protect him, Seth can’t be honest about his homosexuality. When his father discovers the truth, he kicks Seth out. With nowhere else to go, Seth also decides to offer sexual favors to move forward. He gets involved with Carl, who’s much older than him.
Carl offers to take Seth to Vegas with him and they become lovers. However, the relationship is toxic, because Carl gives Seth things in exchange for favors. Carl doesn’t encourage Seth to aspire to anything better. When Carl eventually dumps him, Seth feels he has nothing to offer the world other than his body, so he goes into prostitution. He finds another older man and the cycle repeats itself.
Cody has a tough time dealing with his broken family. His stepfather, Jack, takes ill, and they discover he has cancer. With no one else to look after Jack, Cody takes on the responsibility, but he turns to alcohol to cope. He doesn’t know how to pay the bills other than through gambling, which he can do online whenever he wants. When Jack dies, Cody is drawn into prostitution. He’s hospitalized after an attack, which eventually reunites him with his mother.
Whitney’s boyfriend dumps her after she sleeps with him, making her question her self-worth. She meets a man called Bryn, and together, they move to Vegas to start his photography business. However, Bryn’s only seducing Whitney to make her do sex films, and she ends up addicted to drugs. She finally reunites with her family after an overdose, but it’s not necessarily a happy ending—Whitney’s sister hates her for stealing the attention.
Ginger’s mother is an alcoholic and drug addict. She doesn’t want to be a mother and hates the responsibility. Ginger’s grandmother looks after Ginger as best she can. However, when Ginger’s brother is hit by a motorcycle, she’s left home alone with one of her mother’s boyfriends, who rapes her. Ginger then finds out that her own mother charges men to have sex with her daughter to fund her drug addiction. Ginger has no choice but to run away.
After stealing her mother’s money, Ginger and her friend, Alex, move in with Alex’s aunt Lydia, who lives in Vegas. However, Lydia works in the strip club business; she sets the girls up with jobs. In exchange for their stripping, they get money and lodgings. The girls must also have sex with clients if they want to survive.
Eventually, they’re arrested for solicitation. Ginger calls her grandmother, who tells her that her mother is dying. Ginger leaves Vegas and Alex and goes home. Alex stays behind because she’s pregnant, and she’s determined to do her best by the child.