Friday, November 16

Review ~ Collateral


by Ellen Hopkins

5- Moms Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes. It doesn’t get any better!
(with some reservations)






Synopsis:  (From Good Reads)

The gripping story of a woman torn between love for her boyfriend, a dedicated Marine deployed to Afghanistan, and the resentment she has for the war that is tearing their lives apart.

Written in Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral centers on Ashley, an MFA student at San Diego State University. She grew up reading books and never dreamed she would become a military wife. One night she meets a handsome soldier named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man. He’s passionate and romantic. He even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a professor with similar pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.

Collateral captures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. Those who remain at home may be far away from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, but just the same, all of them will sacrifice a part of themselves for their country and all will eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage caused by war is worth the fight.

What Did I Think?  

This is one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write. I have such mixed feelings about Collateral by Ellen Hopkins. To get to the heart of how I really feel, I have to decide if this book is just a simple story of a few characters or if this is a social commentary about the cost of war on our soldiers and their families. A book is more than just one thing though right? I can’t divorce my feelings on the story from the bigger picture.

The thing is, I am a military wife. My husband is nearing 23 years in the Air Force. I spent four years on active duty in the Air Force as well. So any story that deals with modern military members and their families feels personal. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think this book is anti-military or in any way derogatory towards the US. I do think it leans anti-war (but really, who actually likes war?). 

Collateral is beautifully written (as I have come to expect from Ellen Hopkins). Her poetic verse flows like water and I find myself floating in the story. The main character is Ashley, a collage student who is in a relationship with a US Marine. Her best friend is also in a relationship with a Marine. The story is told in current time with frequent flashbacks to earlier in their relationship. I really liked Ashley. She is a confident, capable, smart young woman who is dealing with a long distance relationship. My husband has been deployed to Iraq a few times in our marriage and I think that the book does a good job showing how hard that is on the person left at home.

To tell you where my heartache with the story is, I have to slightly spoil the story. By spoil, I mean telling you the emotion of the story (like saying that Titanic ends unhappy for most characters or that The Wizard of Oz ends happily.) So if you don't want to know that much stop reading now. . .

Really. . .

I don't want to spoil anything, because it IS an amazing book!

Last warning. . .

My main "problem" is that the book shows only "unhappy" outcomes of military life. I just wish that there had been one couple or one person who was able to come out of the military and be OK. Now, maybe that is very Disney of me but I hate to think that people who have no interaction with the military could read this book and think that only bad things can happen. Do soldiers die? Yes, they do. Do military spouses cheat? Sometimes. Do soldiers come home broken? Missing limbs? Damaged Psyches? Yes. Sometimes. Perhaps even too often. Is it fair to say that every service member comes out of the military changed? Yes, I think it is. But can a man come out of it and not be completely damaged? Yes, I think that can happen to.

I know that drinking problems, domestic violence and suicide can be side effects of what out soldiers go through but I also know that sometimes, they are ok. My husband rarely drinks and never drinks too much. He has never raised a hand to me or my children. Even though he has been in Iraq, outside the wire, and been involved in dangerous things that I will never truly know or understand, he is ok. He is not the only one either.

I think the easiest way to boil down my thoughts on Collateral is this: The story is amazing. It is true to life and sad. I am glad that I read it. I am also glad that it is not my story and not the story of every single woman and man that are part of our armed forces. It is just the story of some of them.

BOTTOM LINE: Beautifully written story that brings up important issues.

Buy it Now: (Clicking the cover below takes you to Amazon)


Source: Received from the publisher Atria Books for review.


  1. I didn't really think about that when I read this, but you are right -- it is all negative outcomes, but if you think about Hopkins' other books, that's kind of what she writes. Thank you for your sacrifice. And your husband and the rest of your family. I'm glad he is OK...

    1. Hi Annette. I have actually only read one of her other books I think and that was Triangles which is Adult. I Loved that one but I guess there was not much in the happy ending department there either. I just hate to perpetuate a negative military stereotype BUT that stereotype is sometimes true. See, I still feel conflicted!


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