I finished listening to impulse, a teen book, a few weeks ago. I have a short review up on Goodreads.com, but I decided to gather my thoughts before I really committed anything to my blog. Before I go into any details about impulse, I want to first warn my readers and any potential readers of this book that impulse consists of many trigger words for PTSD-type situations. There is rape, drug use, suicide, and other topics covered in this book. While I wouldn’t have an issue recommending this book to teens, this is a read that I wouldn’t suggest for any person that suffers from PTSD or similar psychological issues. There were a few moments in this book that made me cringe and flashback to some pretty crazy moments in my life, so don’t say I didn’t give you a fair warning! I will put my general impressions first, then I will move into spoiler country.
What’s Written on the Inside Flap
Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.
Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.
Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.
And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.
In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun — and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other’s help, they can find their way to a better life — but only if they’re strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.
impulse is crafted from the points of view of these three young adults. Each of them face their own demons while staying in Aspen Springs. In the book, the prose is written to resemble freestyle poetry. While aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and easy to read, it causes some readers confusion.
Each character is written in mostly the same voice and the author switches between the three characters without giving any obvious indication that she has switched. One moment you are reading Conner’s thoughts and he might seem like he is talking about how his childhood sucked due to drugs — woah, Conner never did drugs! While its obvious in that example that the subject is Tony, in the book the reader may have to go back a few pages to see where the transition happened.
Luckily for me, I listened to the audiobook for most of the story. The audiobook has three different actors voicing each role, and 2/3 of them are very great in their roles. The voice which bothered me the most, due to sounding like her mouth was full of spit, was Vanessa. This is not really a slight against the actor who portrayed Vanessa, but rather a vocal pet peeve of mine. I also thought her impressions of the other characters was way off, but it was hard to tell if she was supposed to be acting as them or simply acting like Vanessa trying to imitate other people. Out of the three, Conner’s actor was by far the best. His portrayal was the most subtle and he even made the female lines he spoke engaging rather than offensive.
The book, overall, was alright. Its nothing to write home to mom about, but it is definitely worth a read. Just don’t pick it up while sad! Its no bueno for a blue day.
Spoilers start here!
As most readers can guess, impulse does have a love triangle of sorts, though the triangle in impulse is very strange and off putting. Tony is gay… or is he? Conner is attracted to Vanessa and vice verse, but Vanessa ends up with Tony instead. This shift occurs almost in mid sentence. I had to listen to a previous track just to catch why Vanessa was suddenly canoodling with Tony instead. What’s worse is that she hooks up with Tony after she and Conner share a lusty moment. I thought that I had missed an entire disc, but no, it was just a very sudden occurrence.
A tiny nitpick of mine in terms of Tony’s character is how he goes from gay > bi > straight. It isn’t necessarily that I am against someone adapting to their sexuality. I have no doubts that some teens think they are gay when they really aren’t. I just contest with the idea that Tony’s gay lifestyle led him to where he ended up today. He mentions in the book that his ‘lifestyle’ choice has hurt him and others in his life. On that same note, Tony did have a gay surrogate dad, but I am still not impressed with how quickly Tony shifted from gay > straight and that the novel offers no real insight on the reasons a gay teen might want to off himself in the modern world.
Another nitpick of mine is that these characters only seem to care about each other and themselves; meanwhile, they are constantly calling the other Aspen Springs patients lame things such as “freaks.” At first, it just seemed as a mechanism for the teens to cope with their situation until they were suddenly attracted to one another. On top of that, Vanessa is very much a Mary Sue of sorts. She’s beautiful, she’s artistic, and she’s got a tragic past! While I could see the ugliness in her soul, it seems somewhat clear to me that I am not supposed to view her in such a negative light. The character is hard to like and the hardened part of me wants to shout “tough shit” at all her excuses for being the way she is outside of the acceptable ones, such as being bipolar.
I’ve actually lived in a hard situation and suffered from crippling depression/suicidal tendencies, so perhaps its simply that I am not actually the target audience for this book. The characters don’t really show signs of strength and instead come off as one-note characters other than Conner. Conner was written in a way where the reader can actually sense things getting worse for him. I think if Conner had been the sole voice of the story… I would have liked it a lot better.