Ellen Hopkins


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About the Book

Meet Ashley, a graduate student at San Diego State University. She was raised in northern California reading poetry and singing back-up in her best friend’s band. The last thing she ever expected was to end up a military wife. But one night, she meets a handsome Marine named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man she’d always presumed to be true; he’s passionate and romantic, and he even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a deeply felt, sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole desperately wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a college professor, with similar professional pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.


Written in Ellen Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral captures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. While those at home may be far from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, they too sacrifice their lives and happiness for their country at war. And all must eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage it causes is worth the fight.


Ugly in Black

As Earth returns to chaos, her women brace to mourn, excavate their buried faith, tap reservoirs of grace, to mourn.


Soldiers steady M-16s, search stillborn eyes for welcome or signs of commonality. Ferreting no trace, they mourn.


Few are safe, where passions swell like gangrened limbs you cannot amputate. Sever one, another takes its place, and you mourn.


Freefall into martyrdom, a bronze-skinned youth slips into the crowd, pulls the pin. He and destiny embrace, together mourn.


Grenades are colorblind. A woman falls, spilling ebon hair beside the blond in camouflage. Death’s doorman gives chase. All mourn.


Even hell capitulates to sudden downpour. Cloudburst sweeps across the hardpan, cracks its bloodstained carapace. Hear God mourn.


Up through scattered motes, a daughter reaches for an album. She climbs into a rocking chair to search for Daddy’s face, and mourn.


Downstairs, a widow splinters on the bed, drops her head into his silhouette, etched in linen on the pillowcase, to mourn.


Alone, the world is ugly in black. When final nightdescends to blanket memory, drops its shroud of tattered lace, who will mourn?

Loving Any Soldier

Is extremely hard. Loving a Marine

who’s an aggressive front-line marksman


is almost impossible, especially when

he’s deployed. That’s not now. Currently,


Cole is on base in Kaneohe, awaiting

orders. The good thing about that is


I get to talk to him pretty much every

day. The bad thing is, we both know


he’ll go back to the Middle East as soon

as some Pentagon strategist decides


the time is right, again. Cole’s battalion

has already deployed twice to Iraq


and once to Afghanistan. Draw-down

be damned, Helmand Province and beyond


looks likely for his fourth go-round.

You’d think it would get easier. But ask


me, three scratch-free homecomings

make another less likely in the future.

Of Course, If You Ask

Of Course, If You Ask


totally from me, he slips a hand

down the scoop of my tank.

Can’t wait to kiss these, too.


Me about falling in love

with a guy in the military,

I’d tell you to about face

and double-time toward


a decent, sensible civilian.

Someone with a fat bank

account and solid future,

built on dreams entirely


his own. I’d advise you

to detour widely around

any man who prefers fatigues

to a well-worn pair of jeans;


whose romantic getaways

are defined by three-day

leaves; who, at age twenty-

six has drunk more liquor


than most people manage

in a lifetime. He and his

fellow grunts would claim

it’s just for fun. A way to let


their hair down, if they had

much hair to speak of. But

those they leave behind,

devoted shadows, understand


that each booze-soaked

night is a short-lived

retrieve from uncertain

tomorrows, unspeakable


yesterdays. Service. Sacrifice.

The problem with that being,

everyone attached to those

soldiers must sacrifice, too.


So, as some Afghani warlord

might say, put that in your

pipe and smoke it. Okay, that

was actually my grandpa’s saying.


But it works, and what I mean

is, think long and hard before

offering your heart to someone

who can only accept it part time



About war, creating vivid images

of severed limbs, crusting body fluids

and restless final sleep, using nothing

more than a few well-crafted words.

Easy enough to jab philosophically

from the comfort of a warm winter

hearth or an air conditioned summer.

But what can a sequestered writer know


of frontline realities—blistering

marches under relentless sand-choked

skies, where you’d better drink

your weight in water every day or die


from dehydration. Flipside—teeth-

cracking nights, too frigid for action,

bored out of your mind as you try

to stay warm in front of a makeshift fire.


How can any distant observer know

of traversing rock-rutted trails,

hyperaware that your camouflage comes

with a built-in bulls-eye; or of sleeping


with one ear listening for incoming

peril; or of the way fear clogs your

pores every time you climb inside

a Humvee and head out for a drive.


You can see these things in movies.

But you can’t understand the way

they gnaw your heart and corrode

your mind, unless you’ve been a soldier


outside the wire in country where

no one native is really your friend,

and anyone might be your enemy.

You don’t know till you’re ducking


bullets. The only person you dare rely

on is the buddy who looks a lot like

you—too young for this, leaking bravado,

and wearing the same uniform.


Even people who love soldiers—

people like me—can only know these

things tangentially, and not so much

because of what our beloveds tell us


as what they’ll never be able to.

reviews from Library JournaL:

Having triumphed last year with an adult novel, Triangles, YA phenomenon Hopkins returns with the story of two women, two men, and the military that comes between them. MFA student/band backup singer Ashley never thought she would fall for a soldier until she met Cole and then endures five years' worth of deployments, uncertain whether to commit to marriage. Best friend Darian does marry a marine but finds life as a military wife unbearable and has decided on divorce when tragedy strikes. Expect a big audience; with a reading group guide. —Library Journal



Review for COllateral