Author Ellen Hopkins celebrates her birthday today. Born in Long Beach, California on March 26, 1955, Hopkins has written 16 YA and 4 adult novels; her latest, What About Will, was released in September 2021.
With more individual titles challenged than any other author in 2020, Ellen Hopkins is no stranger to challenges or bans to her books. Four of her titles made the top 100 banned or challenged list for the decade between 2010 and 2020. Most recently, her book Triangles was recently banned this month in K-12 schools in Indian River County, Florida. It is no wonder her works elicit such a strong response; they cover topics such as drug addition, prostitution, alcohol, unwanted pregnancy, and violence. While adults feel uncomfortable with the topics, especially in her YA titles, the fact is teens live the experiences she brings to life in her novels. Her social media has thousands of hits from teens telling the author she “is the only one who gets me.”
Hopkins has added her voice to the battle against censorship through the ALA both as a speaker and as a contributor to ALA’s 2012 publication, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries.
Crank, Hopkins’ first novel, was written by Hopkins originally as a way to process her daughter’s addiction to meth. The raw, lyrical format of the novel brought a unique and powerful voice to those who faced addiction and those around them; the power of this novel is still felt in the constant challenges it still faces nearly twenty years after it was originally published. Crank, Glass, and Fallout brings addiction and its consequences to the reader in ways unseen before their publications.
Glass, and the final novel of the trilogy, Fallout, are also frequently challenged, with all three books appearing on the challenged list from 2020. Crank and Fallout also made the top 100 list from the last decade.
Burned tells the story of Pattyn Von Stratten as she untangles what healthy love, spirituality, and sex is despite growing up in an abusive, religious household. When she’s sent to rural Nevada, she starts to find love and acceptance—but how long will it last? Smoke is the heart wrenching sequel to Burned; please note if you read the description, it will contain spoilers for Burned.
Burned made the top 100 most challenged list for the previous decade, as well as the challenged list from 2020.
Debuting on the New York Times Bestseller List its first week, Tricks tells the story of five different youth who turn to prostitution for their own, personal and different reasons. Told in Hopkins’ unique lyrical style, Tricks takes the reader on a powerful journey that focuses on survival.
Tricks, like Burned, made both the top 100 most challenged list and the challenged list from 2020.
The most recently banned book by Hopkins, Triangles explores what a midlife crisis looks like for three women. The consequences of their decisions, and the teens in their lives, inspired Hopkins’ novel Tilt.
Triangles did not make the top 100 list or the challenge list for 2020, but Tilt was challenged in 2020.
Nia Thimakis is a substitute librarian in the Carroll County Public Library system in Maryland. She has been active on state and ALA divisions and round tables since 2016, and has had a strong opinion against banning books since she was young. Lucky enough to attend schools that believed in access to typically banned materials, and growing up in a house that supported uncensored reading, she believes access should not be a matter of luck or circumstance. She has experience in nonprofits, technical writing, instructional design, and has a love for exploring coffee shops with her daughter.