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Author Spotlight: Ellen Hopkins

Poet, Writer, and Advocate for Teens


Young Adult Author Ellen Hopkins
Photo Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

When Ellen Hopkins was born:

March 26, 1955 in Long Beach, California

Her Background:

Adopted at birth by an elderly couple, Ellen Hopkins grew up in Palm Springs, California and lived among some of Hollywood’s most famous celebrities. As a child she showed horses and learned to barrel race. She also studied dance.  She published her first poem at age nine in a local newspaper and knew then that she wanted to be a writer. In 1973 she graduated from high school and began attending the University of California at Santa Barbara majoring in journalism, but dropped out to get married and raise a family. Her early career consisted of writing poetry, doing freelance writing for magazines, and working as a reporter. Hopkins has written several hundred articles on all different subjects and published more than twenty nonfiction books ranging in topics from aviation to orcas. She published her first young adult book Crank in October 2004 and discovered she enjoyed writing for teens.  

Crank is a fictionalized version of Hopkins’ daughter’s addiction to drugs and the devastating effects it brought upon her daughter and the family. Hopkins found that she could best deal with her anger and try to understand the situation by writing about it in a poetic free verse format from the point of view of her daughter. She found the process cathartic and never dreamed it would be a published book.

Since then she has written several bestselling novels for teens and tours the country speaking to high school students and teaching writing workshops. Hopkins enjoys connecting with her readers and takes the opportunity to discuss the serious subject matter of her books as a means of intervention and prevention.

(Sources: Author's Web site and Simon and Schuster's Off the Shelf

Ellen Hopkins’ Books:

Hopkins’ literary success with her teen books has met with critical acclaim and controversy. Due to the heavy subject matter of her books such as drug abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and prostitution, her books have faced many book challenges. According to the American Library Association, Crank is listed as the fourth most challenged book in 2010. (Source: ALA Web site).

Despite the challenges, readers embrace Hopkins’ books because they speak realistically of issues facing today’s teens. When asked how she gets her ideas for her books Hopkins’ answers that she is impressed by statistics and is influenced by the stories shared by her readers. For example, when she came across a startling statistic about teen prostitution, Hopkins got the idea for her book Tricks which tells the story of five teens caught up in the struggles and complexities of love and sexuality.

Hopkins is also well-known for her poetic writing style. As a poet, she believes that narrative free verse allows readers to get into the heads of her characters. Her writing is quick and sparse which carries the story along without weighing the reader down with strict rhyming patterns or heavy symbolism. Hopkins' poetic storytelling is easy to follow and visually appealing to many readers, especially for struggling and reluctant readers.

(Source: Simon and Schuster’s Off the Shelf)

Popular Young Adult Books by Hopkins:

Crank (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010. ISBN: 9781416995135)

Burned (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006. ISBN: 9781416903543)

Impulse (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781416903567)

Glass (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781416940906)

Identical (Margaret K. McElderry Books. 2010. ISBN: 9781416950066)

Tricks (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. ISBN: 9781416950080)

Fallout (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010. ISBN: 9781416950097)

Flirtin’ With the Monster (Nonfiction book edited and compiled by Hopkins) (BenBella Books, 2009. ISBN: 9781933771670)

Perfect   (To be released September 13, 2012)


All of Ellen Hopkins’ young adult books have been listed as New York Times bestsellers. In addition, due to their popularity with teens they’ve been listed on the American Library Association’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and the American Library Association’s Best Books for Teens.

Ellen Hopkins Online:

Hopkins stays connected to her fans and receives hundreds of emails a day thanking her for books. Many readers share personal stories with her that she finds gratifying. She also keeps an active Facebook and Twitter page. (Source: Simon and Schuster’s Off the Shelf)




Ellen Hopkins Trivia:

  • In 2000, Hopkins found her biological mother, Toni Chandler, who is also a poet and a writer.
  • Hopkins enjoys other hobbies such as hiking, fishing, gardening, photography, and raising German Shepherds.
  • Hopkins and her husband John adopted their grandson Orion who is the baby Hunter from the Crank trilogy.

(Source: Author's Web site)

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