Book Review: Rumble, by Ellen Hopkins

rumbleRumble is the latest novel by Ellen Hopkins, who is personally one of my favorite authors.

Like all of her books, the story is told through a series of free verse poems. The story is told from the first person point of view of Matthew Tuner, a teenage atheist whose life is in shambles in the wake of his younger brother, Luke’s suicide. Rumble‘s main topic is about religion and faith, or lack thereof, but it also covers other issues such as, bullying, suicide and the effects that it has on those left behind, book banning, and issues relating to the LGBT community, and even touches a bit of PTSD.

Like all Ellen Hopkins books, this book comes with a message and to convey it there may be some content that some readers may be uncomfortable with. The recommended age as provided by the publisher is 14 and up (9th grade and beyond); however, I personally think that mature middle schoolers may be able to handle it.

As for the story itself, it follows the life of Matthew Tuner, Matt, in the months after his brother’s suicide. Not all of the information is given at the start, we almost right from the start know that Matt is an atheist, despite dating a girl who is extremely devoted to her faith, and that his younger brother, Luke, was driven to commit suicide due to undying bullying and harassment he faced. The reader is not given the exact reason for the bullying right off, but hints are given. Fairly early into the book the reader is given the reason, and I apologize in advance if anyone views this as a spoiler- Luke was gay.

Throughout the first half of the book, parts of an essay that Matt wrote are included throughout poems; the essay is his feelings about God and why he doesn’t believe there is anything after death. It is clear that he can’t understand how there could be a God (especially because of the view that God is a source of undying love) when his brother was bullied simply for being who he was by Christians, in the name of their God. A large portion of the storyline deals with Matt coping with the loss of his brother and exploring his lack of faith, but there are other parts of his life covered as well.

Other than the fallout of losing Luke, Matt also deals with his relationship with his girlfriend Haydan, his undetermined relationship with his friend Alexa, and his mother and father’s struggling relationship, as well as other issues. The relationship between Matt and Haydan was quite interesting to me. I had never really thought that two people who varied that drastically in their religious views could even have a shot at a relationship, and though I won’t say whether or not they stay together in the end, their relationship certainly made me look at this differently.

What really impressed me about this book was the sheer number of topics that are touched on and the depth with which they’re handled. I thought this would be mainly a novel about religion versus lack of religon and about trying to find forgiveness and a way to move on in the wake of a family tragedy. While it certainly was this, it was so much more as well.

Rumble did a very good job covering topics such as bullying, suicide and the effects that it has on those left behind, book banning, and issues relating to the LGBT community, and even touches a bit of PDST. The story did a very good job conveying Luke’s story– how he faced bullying just for being who he was, and why he felt suicide was the only option. Matt’s feelings about how he could have stopped Luke’s decision, and even how he may have played a part it in, are conveyed very well. Rumble also briefly explores PTSD, and while this was a brief plot point, it was an important one and well done.

What topic that really stood out to me was how the book brought up book banning. In it there was a motion to remove The Perks of Being a Wallflower from the school district. There were a lot of interesting arguments for both sides explored in Rumble, but what really made an impression on me was when Matt expressed the opinion that people needed books like Perks not just to speak for them, but also to speak to them. I feel like Rumble is a book that does both of these beautifully, for people on both sides of the issues covered.

Rumble is a brilliantly written book that was more amazing that I could have ever dreamed of. It did a stunning job of covering a vast array of subject matter, and ultimately conveying a message of forgiveness.

-Angela J.

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