Young Adult Literature

Beyond the Bestsellers: So You’ve Read Ellen Hopkins

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Ellen Hopkins is not only a New York Times Bestselling author, she’s a perennially popular author. No matter how many copies of her books I have at the library, I end up having to purchase more copies because they end up disappearing and/or the demand for her books continues.

One of the things I love about readers who love Ellen Hopkins, though, is that most of them are so open and eager to trying books that are like hers but written by other people. It’s not that fans of other books aren’t that way, but in my experience, it’s easy to pinpoint exactly what it is readers love about Hopkins’s books. Making a recommendation becomes fun because you know there’s going to be a satisfied reader who then goes on to find other books and authors to become just as passionate about.

The books Hopkins writes have staying power, and they’re the kind of books that readers just coming into YA or those who are seasoned YA readers continue to pick up because she’s got a way of telling a compelling story that never feels trite, overwrought, or overly dramatic. Her characters are put through hell, and while much of the time they’re able to come out of it, one of the more satisfying elements of her books is that sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel for all of the characters, which showcases her honesty and authenticity to not just the story, but to life itself. Things get ugly, and despite how much you want for it to get better, sometimes it just doesn’t.

As usual, all of the books recommended are titles you won’t find on the best sellers list, though many have earned distinction and acclaim, and your mileage may vary — no one will ever be the next Ellen Hopkins because we’ve already got Ellen Hopkins.

ellen hopkins books

Why You Like Ellen Hopkins

  • The realistic, edgy, no holds barred stories are what bring readers in and keep them interested in Hopkins’s books. She’s tackled drug addiction, teen prostitution, eating disorders, faulty and problematic family relationships, broken adults, and aching teens. There’s not a topic too off-limits for Hopkins to tackle, and when she goes for it, she’s all in. These reads aren’t wimpy, and readers seeking them seek them out because they shine a light into issues either they’re dealing with, they know people dealing with, or that they’re interested in. But more importantly, these stories aren’t sensationalist: there is nothing “sexy” here at all.
  • Many readers dig Hopkins’s writing style. Her novels are written in stylized verse, rather than in a more traditional narrative form. There’s a visual element as much as there is a voice achieved through the use of verse to convey the story, dialog, and propel the plot forward.
  • Hopkins’s stories are fast-paced, in part because of their compelling plots and in part because of their verse styling. This pacing further builds the intensity and rawness of her stories.


Try One Of These Authors (or Books) Next

what goes around by courtney summers

Courtney Summers

Anyone who is interested in realistic YA fiction that’s edgy and honest but hasn’t yet picked up a Courtney Summers book is missing out. What Goes Around is a bind-up of Summers’s first two novels, Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, which are perfect next reads for fans of Ellen Hopkins. Both feature complicated — “unlikable” — female characters who are working through a host of tough issues. There’s no blacking out here, no glossing it over. They’re brutal and ugly. Though they’re written in a more traditional narrative style than Hopkins’s, Summers can write and there’s something poetic at the sentence level. These are fast paced and blistering and at times downright tough to read.

because i am furniture by thalia chaltas

Thalia Chaltas

To date, Chaltas has written two books, Because I Am Furniture and Displacement, but both make excellent reads for fans of Hopkins. Like Hopkins, both books tackle tough subjects (abuse and running away from home, respectively) and they’re written in verse. The verse isn’t written in quite the same way as Hopkins, but the styling works for each story and doesn’t compete against it, helping make the voices of the main characters memorable. The desperation in both novels should resonate with readers of Hopkins who appreciate that within her novels, too.

wanted by heidi ayarbe

Heidi Ayarbe

Ayarbe writes in a more traditional format than Hopkins does, but her stories have great appeal to fans of Hopkins. They take on tough topics, with unflinching honesty, and they do so without speaking down to either the characters or the readers. Wanted, Ayarbe’s most recent novel, could be likened a bit to a Bonnie & Clyde alike for YA readers, and one of the elements that makes it a nice next read for Hopkins fans is that it is set in Nevada in a world that’s desolate and very “western.” Many of Hopkins’s novels are set in this area (whether actually in the desert or not) and that setting furthers the voices, stories, and edge to her novels.

But I won’t stop there. There are a LOT of great next reads for fans of Ellen Hopkins, and once you start down the road of YA fiction in that vein and find you love it, it’s hard to stop. Here’s a short list of authors and books for those ready to go further:

  • Holly Cupala, especially Don’t Breathe a Word, which is about a runaway and life as a street kid in Seattle.
  • Amy Reed, especially Clean, which tells the story of five teens who are in a rehab clinic.
  • Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, written in multiple point of view verse about teens discovering and embracing their sexualities.
  • Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams, which is written in verse about the terrible things a mother would do to her daughter. It’s gritty and raw.
  • Gail Giles, who has been writing edgy realistic YA for many years. Start with Shattering Glass. 
  • The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin’s story of an abusive home life should be another next pick for Hopkins fans.

And even though it’s a bestseller in its own right (and has been for a very long time), Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is a natural read alike for Hopkins, too.


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