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Literature / Impulse

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Impulse is a verse novel by Ellen Hopkins, centering around main protagonists Vanessa, Conner and Tony. All three meet at Aspen Springs, a Residential Treatment Center for minors. The whole novel follows their stay at the center for approximately one year, also serving out flashbacks from the perspective of each of the characters to show what led to their suicide attempts, and, ultimately, how they got there.


In 2011, a companion novel entitled Perfect was published. It takes place at the same time as Impulse but follows four different characters (including Conner's twin sister, Cara), although the storylines overlap at various points.

Not related to a Digital Distribution service known as Impulse that sells videogames, or the DC Comics hero named Impulse.

Impulse and its companion novel Perfect provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Vanessa's mother, Tony's mother, both of Conner's parents...It's probably quicker to list the characters who don't have abusive or absent parents.
  • Always Second Best: Conner to his twin sister in the eyes of his parents. Also seemed he was beginning to take this view of himself compared to his sister, too...
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Impulse: Both Tony and Vanessa resolve to work on their respective issues and also become a couple, right before Conner jumps off a cliff and dies.
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    • Perfect: Also ends with Conner's suicide and funeral, but from this perspective, it can seem somewhat more of a Downer Ending. Most of the kids (Kendra especially) haven't really resolved their issues by the time the book ends, and the final page is Cara getting handed the paper airplane from the end of Impulse, which readers of that novel will recognize as the note Conner's parents wrote him that drove him over the edge.
  • Bungled Suicide / Interrupted Suicide: How each of the narrators got into Aspen Springs. Also, Vanessa's mother.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The paper airplane. It's a gun in both books, as Tony and Vanessa give it to Cara in the final pages of Perfect.
  • Death by Childbirth: Sean's mother.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Subverted. Conner's rape is taken very seriously, and is part of the reason he's at Aspen Springs in the first place. However he seems to view it more as an act of love. To which his therapist responds: he was, like, 12.
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  • Driven to Suicide: What got each of the main characters into Aspen Springs. In the end Conner plays this straight and goes through with it after realizing that things with his parents are never going to improve.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Whichever book you end up reading first, you will go into the second with the knowledge that Conner doesn't make it out of Aspen Springs.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted; Vanessa terminated her pregnancy with Trevor under pressure from him. She strongly regrets it and views it as having killed a person.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Conner and Cara.
  • Missing Mom: Vanessa's mother. The narration implies that she died some time prior to the story; it later turns out that she is still alive, but permanently comatose as a result of her suicide attempt. Also, Tony's mother has died by the time the novel begins.
    • In Perfect: Sean's mother died giving birth to his younger brother, Wade.
  • One-Word Title
  • Parental Abandonment: Tony's dad walked out on him and his mom when he was young. He comes back into Tony's life to pay for his stay at Aspen Springs, but Tony is very reluctant to forgive him at first.
  • Parent with New Paramour: In Perfect, Kendra and Jenna's father is getting remarried, and Kendra in particular has a hard time dealing with it.
  • Rape as Backstory: Both Conner and Tony had very crappy examples happen to them during their childhoods. Conner is the rare female-male example, taken seriously. His rape at a young age by his nanny contributes to his attraction to older woman, along with his unloving parents
  • Rape and Switch: Tony. His first sexual experience was being raped by his mother's boyfriend at about eight, and she tells him he did it to himself because he's gay. After which he goes to juvie for shooting the guy in the face. He implies that juvie was full of fail. At some point, he decided he was gay, not seeming to get that being raped is not being loved as all his sexual encounters in his entire life seem to be rape or sexual assault. Also, Tony didn't even think that their was a possibility that he could be attracted to women, much less be bi. Turns out he is. At the same time, subverted because Tony is, in fact, told there is absolutely NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF that this trope can even happen by his therapist, and that no one knows what EXACTLY influences sexual preference.
    • Also, Cara in Perfect.
  • Rich Bitch: How Conner describes Cara. However, when we get Cara's perspective in Perfect, she turns out to have a lot more depth and just as many problems as her brother.
  • Self-Harm: Vanessa.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sean to Cara after they break up; he goes so far as to take pictures of her and Dani having sex and text them to the entire school.
  • Straight Gay: Tony. Until Vanessa cures him with her hotness.
    • To be fair, it's pretty heavily implied that Tony was never gay in the first place, but just thought he was due to a combination of childhood sexual abuse and never really having been around women to be attracted to in the first place.
  • Unable to Cry: Tony, after Conner kills himself.


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