Review: Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Format/Source: ARC/From Publisher
Eighteen-year-old Matthew Turner doesn’t believe in much. Not in family—his is a shambles, after his brother’s suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when the going gets rough. Certainly not in some omnipotent master of heaven and earth, no matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, thinks. In fact, he’s sick of arguing with her about faith. Matt is a devout atheist, unafraid of some Judgment Day designed by decidedly human power brokers to keep the masses in check. He works hard, plays hard, and plans on checking out the same way. But a horrific accident—one of his own making—plunges Matt into a dark, silent place where the only thing he can hear is a rumble, and eventually, a voice. And what it says will call everything Matt has ever disbelieved into question. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
A Couple of Taboo Subjects…
I like reading books that take on some interesting, and perhaps “taboo” subjects. Sometimes I worry, though, that they’re going to end up being really biased, or preachy towards a certain way of thinking about those subjects. But lots of authors these days are really adept in writing about these kinds of subjects without crossing that line. And thankfully, Ellen Hopkins has proven with Rumble that she can do just that.
Rumble includes a few different subjects that could be considered “taboo” or “controversial”: religion, suicide, and homosexuality. And while there are certainly still plenty of people in the world who are against homosexuality (or think it’s a sin), I am not one of those people, and so I flock towards LGBT books. Religion, on the other hand, is one of those kinds of sensitive subjects that can easily sway a person one way or another, just by the way the subject is handled. Get too preachy, you turn away readers. Or show certain viewpoints that people might not agree with, and you might turn away others.
I have to admit, I was worried that Rumble was going to become preachy. I was worried that this story was going to be about an Atheist who suddenly “comes to his senses” and becomes a Christian. Now, I will admit, this can happen. Atheists can suddenly become believers, or vice versa. And I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with being Christian, or being a member of any religion, for that matter. But I do have an issue with the idea that an Atheist or Agnostic character needs to become religious because they just have to. And luckily, Rumble didn’t fall into that trap. Matthew’s beliefs evolve throughout the book, and he has some questions, but he doesn’t just suddenly become a believer. Sorry if that’s a spoiler–I just had to mention that I was happy that it wasn’t a story about an Atheist who suddenly saw the light and became a Christian. (Nothing against Christians, like I said. I just personally don’t enjoy those types of stories.)
But I digress. I really enjoyed Rumble. It was only the second free verse novel I’ve read, and it was my first book to read by Ellen Hopkins, and I was surprised to find out that all her YA books are written in free verse. I thought the free verse was interesting and different and made for a very quick read.
I also really liked the characters. Matthew has his issues, and even when you take those away he isn’t perfect. I cringed at some of the things that he would say and think about his relationship with Hayden. They both were at fault when it came to their problems, and it was nice to see this kind of relationship, where it wasn’t just one person being horrible to the other. His parents were horrible at times, but at other times you really felt for them. And I really loved his Uncle Jessie and Quin, and even that crazy guy Gus. All the characters were really complex and interesting.
I kind of saw the ending coming, but overall I was happy the way it all turned out. And like I said, I really think that Ellen Hopkins handled these controversial subjects well.
My rating for Rumble by Ellen Hopkins:
4 stars. I really enjoyed it, and will definitely be reading more of Ellen Hopkins’s books in the future!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.
Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)August 15, 2014 at 11:26 pm
I **LOVE** Ellen Hopkins and her verse novels, YA and non-YA. I love how she isn't afraid to write WHATEVER and she is like: this is my book, take it or leave it. They're intense, but they're pretty awesome. At least all of the ones I've read so far have been. My favorite has been Burned, which also has a religious thread through it but is not preachy. I have not read this one but am slowly working my way through her books. LOVE. THEM.
Kate Midnight Book GirlAugust 28, 2014 at 2:16 am
I really love Ellen Hopkins verse novels, but this is one I haven't read! Religion is such a taboo in YA books, and I can only think of a handful that even really mention religion at all. Miranda Kenneally tackled the subject of abortion and religion beautifully in Things I Can't Forget (which is more about a Christian girl learning to think outside of what her small church has taught her), so I'm pretty interested in this one.