People Kill People – Ellen Hopkins

people kill people
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 431
Release Date: September 4, 2018

Someone will shoot. And someone will die.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins tackles gun violence and white supremacy in this compelling and complex novel.

People kill people. Guns just make it easier.

A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought by a teenager for needed protection. But which was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?

One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

I’ve been an avid Ellen Hopkins fan since high school. Her books are always hard hitting, poignant, and unrelenting. Hopkins does not coddle her readers nor does she handle them with kid gloves. Her novels always feature triggering topics and People Kill People is no exception.

Hopkins’ writing style is certainly not for everyone. She writes almost exclusively in verse. This choice allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the characters and situations since the act of writing in verse cuts the unnecessary descriptions that would otherwise bog down the story. So, I was surprised and a little disappointed that People Kill People doesn’t follow its predecessors. There are bits of verse sprinkled throughout, however most of the story is told through prose. However, this prose isn’t what is traditionally found in other novels. Instead, it’s choppy and to the point. I would have appreciated the novel more had it been written in Hopkins’ signature verse.

The narrator throughout People Kill People is an unknown omnipresent being that I interpreted as the embodiment of dangerous impulses and/or chaos whispering to the characters their deepest and darkest thoughts. Some choose to listen, some choose to ignore, and some slowly embrace them. This choice is narration is easily one of the best aspects of the novel.

I should have seen the ending of this novel coming a mile away. It’s set up so well that I feel a little stupid for missing it. Though it’s an obvious conclusion and a point that been made over and over, it’s still an important one to uphold. With gun reform and gun safety at the center of most debates on how to protect the most vulnerable in our society, People Kill People is a timely piece of writing that is unrelenting in its fight for gun reform. People Kill People takes readers into the minds of six different teenagers with various reasons for picking up a gun and altering the lives of everyone around them. Gun violence is at the forefront of this novel along with other various triggering topics, so use caution when approaching this read.


Have you read People Kill People? What did you think? Are you an Ellen Hopkins fan?

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