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People Kill People

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Someone will shoot. And someone will die.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins tackles gun violence and white supremacy in this compelling and complex novel.

People kill people. Guns just make it easier.

A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought by a teenager for needed protection. But which was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?

One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

431 pages, Hardcover

First published September 4, 2018

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About the author

Ellen Hopkins

48 books16.9k followers
Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Triangles, Tilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the "only one who understands me", and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 875 reviews
Profile Image for Lucy Tonks.
436 reviews703 followers
December 25, 2021
"See, I’ve got this theory.
Given the right circumstances,
any person could kill someone. 

Even you."

I'm speechless. Wow. Just wow.

This is a book that everyone should read sooner or later. Yes, it's a hard book to read, but it's an important one and everyone should really give it a go.

This is a book told mostly in verse and it deals with gun violence and white supremacy, bringing awareness about these two topics. The book starts with an Author's Note, where the author talks about her experince with guns and why she wanted to write this story and just that felt so raw.

In this book a gun is bought at the beginning of the book by a teenager in need of protection, but we have no idea who. It could be either of our main characters. It could be Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son. Or was it Ashlyn and Silas? Two teenagers part of a white supremacist organization. Daniel, who had little happy moments in his life and is very attached to Grace, his supposed love of his life? Or poor Noelle, who had an accident when she was younger that has sunk her into deppresion? All of them have an initiative to pick a gun. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

I never read a book like this. It had such an impact on me. We are put into the characters' minds. We see how they think, we see how they've been impacted by their past, since I'm gonna be honest, most of them did not have a happy life, we see what makes them do the things that they do. But do we ultimately understand them? In a way yes, we do. Do we root for them? No, not really.

"The characters you’ll meet in these pages have powerful life situations driving them in negative directions. Any one of them, in a precise moment in time, might decide to pick up a gun and fire it. If they seem familiar it’s because they are, at least in some small way, inspired by stories that pop up in news feeds every day. They are fictional, but real."

-Ellen Hopkins talking about the characters in the Author's Note

The only main character that I liked in this book was Noelle. She was the only character that I felt some sympathy for and I understood to some capacity. All the characters have faults in this book, Noelle included. But the thing is, the characters in this book are not made for us to like. For them to get some development. No. They were created for us to undertsand the message that Ellen Hopkins was trying to saw us. They were written this way to spread awareness about that everything that is happening in our current times with gun violence and white supremacy.

Since I rated this book four stars and not five, I did have some problems with it. The plot for me felt a bit inconsistent. The first 300 pages were pretty slow. They felt more like build up for the last 100 pages, since that's the strongest part in this book. This book was beautifully written, and Ellen Hopkins managed to handle these topics extremely well, but I simply wish those 300 pages had more going on in them, instead of us focusing on the end. Yes, the outcome is important, the most important part in the book, but I wanted to be more invested in the beginning.

These quotes, with the one that I put at the beginning of the review are the ones that simply stuck with me:
"Perhaps this is the true
knowledge of Eden—not
the mechanics of procreation,
but the promise that one’s time
on earth is nothing more
than a journey toward
inevitable departure."

"But the truth, at least as I like
to tell it, is that the voices
who speak to you from inside 

your head have taken up
permanent residence there."


If your dream catcher
would set your nightmares free,
standing street level
at ground zero,
a willing witness, aware
of the imminent destruction
that will any second storm
down on you from above."

This is an extremely important book that more people should read it, but you should take into consideration before picking this book up that there might be a few things happening in this book that you may find triggering. In the end I really like this book and I recommend everyone to give it a try.
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
June 17, 2019
I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster. I had no obligation to read or review this book and all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Carlene Inspired.
918 reviews239 followers
Want to read
February 4, 2019
Not sure when I'll be ready to read any book about gun violence, but it's Ellen Hopkins and I read everything she writes so maybe someday I'll be ready for this.

EDITED TO ADD: This is due to a personal experience at a mass shooting event, not because I shy away from difficult topics.
Profile Image for Kate.
2,027 reviews78 followers
June 16, 2018
Not her usual verse novel style, although there are elements of it, but Hopkins still manages to break hearts, minds and characters. :)
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 4 books77 followers
September 21, 2018
This isn't my favorite Hopkins book, but still masterfully written. The pacing felt slightly slower, and I felt like the ending was rather predictable with some of the characters (Daniel's actually surprised me though). I enjoyed the epilogue, where we got to see the futures of all of the characters, something Hopkins doesn't usually do.

The message of this piece is very powerful, of course, and reflects contemporary issues today that we as people must face. And sadly, this might continue to be a contemporary issue for some time, since there is so much debate over the topic.

While not my favorite (my favorites are Identical and Burned), I still really loved this book!
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,865 reviews421 followers
September 16, 2022
'People Kill People' by Ellen Hopkins is an extremely interesting free-verse novel. It is narrated by a character called the Voice of Violence (author’s voice). Through the Voice of Violence, readers are given a tour of the lives of several eighteen-year-olds. The Voice of Violence’s introductions are interspersed with shifts to the point of view from each of these haunted teens in prose.

It's a tough time for most of these almost grownups. Life has given some of them a rotten home life or no home at all, while others (except one) are looking for a purpose. Each is struggling to accept themselves as they are. They each are hoping they can somehow move forward to a better version of themselves, uncertain of what form that would be.

Zane buys a Ruger LC9s Pro legally from an Arizona gun store. He has become extremely paranoid from watching Fox News about Muslims. His son died in the Persion Gulf War. Muslim immigrants have moved into his Tucson neighborhood and he has become certain they are jihadists despite that they look like all young married couples with a baby. Unfortunately a terrible accidental shooting in his own home causes him to forget all about his fears. He sells the gun through a classified ad.

Rand Bingham was sixteen when fifteen-year-old Cami became pregnant. He married her. Rand's dad told Rand he wouldn't be able to support his new wife Cami and baby Waylon by playing guitar. So Rand changed his plan and decided to become a police officer. But first he has to work construction jobs until he is twenty-one. That is how old one must be to enter the police academy. He is eighteen now. He has a hair-trigger temper. Readers will pick up on the probable start of his rage was from when he was raped at age nine by a scoutmaster. His father, in the Air Force, and his mother, a chronic alcoholic, divorced earlier, and Rand was probably vulnerable, looking for a father figure. He quit scouts after the rape, and never reported it. His father married Grace's mother. Grace is a character who links all of the book’s characters.

Cami Whittington feels like her life barely got started before she needed to be a responsible wife and mother. She doesn't really know how. Grace is a good friend since middle-school. Cami is frustrated at Rand's insistence she feed their son Waylon, two years old, better meals than hamburgers and french fries. She wants to make more money, and secretly sells drugs. She has been smoking pot since middle-school, too. Rand doesn't know about her drug dealing. She still wants to party. But getting a babysitter, usually her sister Noelle, has become complicated. Noelle was in a car wreck and suffered brain damage. She suffers from epileptic seizures now.

Noelle has gained a lot of weight. Is it her seizure medication? Or her unhappiness. Her best friend, Grace, is drawing away from her too, which is extremely distressing. She loves Grace. Noelle is gay. She can't help herself in loving Grace, a heterosexual. She and Grace were in the car when Grace's father was shot dead in a road rage incident and that's when Noelle sustained the head injury causing her seizures. Noelle is no longer capable of living on her own because of the epilepsy. She was the smart one. Now she is looking for something important to do, so she wants to join in a rally for the undocumented. She thinks people can't be illegal, hate should be illegal.

Silas Wells hates all non-Whites. Since his mother started dating a Jew, his hatred has intensified. His father, separated from his mother, has moved in with a Mexican woman. As a White nationalist, he has become a hunter of non-Whites to beat up. His family doesn't have a clue he has joined the Traditionalist Youth Network. He adores Grace, but she doesn't like him. He has to settle for Ashlyn. His best friend is Tim Livingston, who is also a White nationalist. They love guns.

Daniel Livingston is homeless. At first, he was living with his mother Alma, in an apartment paid for by his father Bradley. Bradley was married to another woman, Shailene. Alma had escaped a hurricane in Honduras and was living in the United States, temporarily granted status as a refugee. She met Bradley, an attorney, and they had had an affair, resulting in the birth of Daniel. Alma forgot to renew her green card and was deported after an immigration raid. Bradley confessed to Shailene about the affair and she agreed, reluctantly, to take in Daniel to raise with their son Tim. Until Bradley died of a heart attack. Now, he is couch surfing. Tim and Shailene hate him. He has become terribly insecure, perhaps even mentally ill. He is hoping Grace will continue to be his girlfriend, but he can't stop himself from doubting her affection. It has made him unreasonably possessive. Daniel is very jealous of Rand, Grace's stepbrother. Suicide sometimes crosses his mind.

Ashlyn's father Damian stabbed her mother to death. He is in prison. Ashlyn saw the murder. Before that, her father abused her. She eagerly joined the Traditionalist Youth Network. She feels like she found a home there where she is accepted. Her uncle Frank and aunt Lou are not good people. Tim Livingston is her cousin. Through Silas, Tim's friend, she hears about the anti-immigrant protest sponsored by the TYN. She welcomes the opportunity to vent rage. She loves guns.

Grace was thirteen when her father died. She was fourteen when her mother married Rand's dad. Grace hates guns. She became religious after the murder of her father and attends church regularly. She will graduate soon from high school and has been accepted at University of Arizona. She is a light in everyone's life.

The dramas which are ongoing in the above young characters' lives is often wrenching for each of them. Emotions sometimes spill over like boiling water. They are uncertain of their futures, each of them feeling insecure and yet wanting ..... something fulfilling. Clearly, guns and volatile feelings would not mix well in these young unsettled lives, the dice still rolling for them at this point. Many possibilities are in front of them even if they are unaware of that now. Unless a bullet stops everything....

I enjoy Hopkin's novels, but I thought this one lost its plot focus a bit. But....people do kill people. The Voice of Violence reminded me of the tradition I read Ancient Greek plays had. A narrator or a chorus between the acts of the play, like a director, introduces descriptions of characters, action and emotions to the audience. The Voice is a like a reader’s guide of sorts. If so, I think this is inadvertently ironic - these kids were desperately needing guidance which they weren’t getting that the readers were!
Profile Image for April.
1,226 reviews18 followers
September 18, 2018
Sadly, despite really loving other books by Hopkins, this one is not working for me. DNF. I read about 70 pages before realizing I was rolling my eyes on every single page. So, I flipped to the last 20 or so pages and skimmed those. I do not feel I missed anything of importance in the intervening 400 pages. Which solidifies that this was not a book I was going to enjoy.

Which is disappointing as this had all the right markers of an intense tale I should have found to be dark but also super compelling: gun violence and the debate around control vs responsible ownership vs people killing each other (or themselves) even without guns; racism and white nationalism; misogyny; and in general just human propensity towards violence. However, this combination may have been too much for these pages to take on.

The tale starts with an older white man who buys a guy because he's afraid of "those Muslims" that just moved in down the street. But when he ends up shooting and killing his wife who came home early one night he sells the gun quickly for cash to get it out of his house and his memories. Then we follow the gun to its new teen dad owner and from there the story is basically alternating between narration by the concept of Violence and 6 intertwined teen characters in Arizona. The characters are all narrated in second person because, as Violence tells the reader, "this could be you too". But yeah; I never felt immersed in any of the characters despite this annoyingly awful narrative perspective usage because it all reads like some sort of deep-dive propaganda (which didn't even know WHAT is was trying to push you to believe?) and stereotypes. I mean; it was angling to get me to sympathize with these deeply racist characters but yet used lingo and scenarios and imagery that meant you never sank into the character even though it was written in a way to make you FEEL like that character. It was a huge disconnect for me. Not that you really wanted to "feel like" a nazi sympathizer but if that's the goal Hopkins had; to attempt to humanize such a character even a bit; it failed quite a lot. It just felt like it was trying too hard to be both No Message About Guns at All, We're Just Saying What IF Here and then also at the same time being all Guns Are Bad and Stuff Just Look .

It just did not work for me at all. Which is a shame. Because, to me, it felt like there was a lot that could have been said here but it just missed the mark and became heavy-handed (but in a way that you weren't even quite sure WHAT that heavy handed message was supposed to be??)

I was also a bit disappointed in how much prose there. I really enjoy the poetry style Hopkins usually uses and this slog of text did not, I feel, do her writing any favors.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julia Sapphire.
546 reviews1,049 followers
August 19, 2020
"Have you ever thought
about killing someone?
I mean, poisoning them,
bludgeoning them, grabbing
a well-honed knife
and carving them into pieces?"

I have previously loved so many Hopkins books, such as "Impulse". Even some that I did not enjoy very much, I still found the importance in, like "Tricks". But personally, this one fell super flat for me.

This book is written in verse but also switching perspectives into a kind of normal novel format back and forth. We follow six teens and there lives, how they all intertwine. This also deals with the topic of gun violence, which is the main reason I also wanted to give this a read.

There were very few things that I liked about this book, the writing wasn't bad. But the characters were extremely one dimensional. It was difficult to keep track of who was who, as we were constantly shifting perspectives. Not to mention, I did not care about any of the characters and felt no attachment. I also did not care about the story and think the topic of gun violence could have been dealt with better. The ending was nothing surprising or jaw-dropping as her books usually are.
Profile Image for Theresa.
316 reviews1 follower
September 29, 2018
3.5 stars but rounding down to 3 for Goodreads rating system.

This book was ok. I'll be the first to admit I was not the intended target audience. But honestly I would not want my young teen who would have been to read this. For me the story was strong and interesting so that's where the stars were earned. As for for the style, let's just say I was NOT a fan. It wasn't so off putting that I couldn't finish. I just do not care for poetry or verse. Since receiving the book I realize that is the author's style so I decided to not judge it down harshly because of it. I figure most who read this after release will have the chance to pick the book up and thumb through before deciding if this style suits them.

3* (3.5) / 4.00*

In compliance with FTC guidelines------I received this book free from a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The content of this review is not influenced by that fact. The feelings expressed are solely mine. I sincerely appreciate the chance to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Hillari Morgan.
308 reviews36 followers
April 17, 2019
Yes!! This text is so relevant and so important!

People Kill People is a story that follows multiple characters through many different perspectives, and all within knowing that one person dies and one person pulls the trigger. This book simply asks you to figure out who falls on which end.

Before this, I had never read an Ellen Hopkins book! Shocking, I know. I have one in my classroom library, but just never made the time for it. I now know what I was missing. Realistic fiction for me is a love/hate genre. If the book is done well, and it is engaging enough for me to almost forget that I am reading RF, then I am all in. But in fairness, I would much rather be reading YA fantasy or nonfiction, so I truly need the realistic fiction to suck me in and not allow me to come up for air if I am going to consider it something worth reading. This book was pretty darn close to doing just that!

The structure of this text is brilliant. Having it narrated by something rather than someone, kept the pacing and the constant important questions coming, which is integral for a reader. It was not challenging, keeping all the various perspectives separate - surprising as there are so many - and the audience begins to genuinely care about all of the people within the story, in light of their backgrounds. The readability was also assisted by the poetic interruptions that occurred before each perspective change.

As I said in my first sentence, this text is so relevant for today. Regardless of the side you are on, it is undeniable that there are huge dangers and copious amounts of irresponsibility when it comes to firearms. Today, in 2019, gun violence is a constant and hot button topic- whether it has to do with mass shootings, suicides, accidents, or talk of gun control - you cannot escape any of this when watching the news. Hopkins truly captures the importance and nuances of all of this, beautifully.

At the end of this book, there was such a clever twist and it was almost my undoing. While it was horribly challenging to read (when you get to that point, you know what's coming!) it simply continues to demonstrate that no one is safe or above the power of a firearm. I will leave this paragraph with a spoiler and the closing comment of: .

This book is important. It takes out the politics of owning a gun and firing a gun, and instead focuses on the humanity attached to a gun. It really is a sad but true reality that, people kill people.
Profile Image for Spencer.
276 reviews61 followers
September 13, 2018
absolutely incredible. hard to read at times because of the subject matter, but absolutely necessary.
Profile Image for Alicia.
5,732 reviews108 followers
July 1, 2018
I guess I’m still looking for her signature style that has matured and graduated to a different level, especially with her adult novels and her personal politics. Though gun violence is a timely topic and yeomans work to do right. It works. It’s tragic. It’s lovely. You meet well-rounded characters and learn about different lives that are mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. The ending is sad though not completely surprising.

It’s important, but lacked the pacing and interest of something like Tricks had with multiple characters and helping readers understand about sex trafficking. This had the element of gun violence but interwoven beauty of learning about and from the characters.
Profile Image for Jade Melody.
204 reviews141 followers
January 13, 2019
This was an important story surrounding a controversial topic that is only argued but never written about in such way. Ellen Hopkins beautifully wrote the different perspectives concerning guns, immigration, and races. This was a hard read only because it dealt with the reality that human violence is happening all around us for a variety of different reasons. I would really recommend this book to anyone.

This book has triggers such as gun violence and rape.

Full Review on my blog https://jademelody.wixsite.com/melodi...
Profile Image for maya.
255 reviews37 followers
January 16, 2020
*2.5 stars
dnfed @ 250:
i had high hopes for this tbh. the subject was an important and interesting one but the execution wasn't really that well done and i hated every single character and their povs and just no.
Profile Image for Heather.
310 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2018
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this at BEA 2018 and oh this book! Ellen Hopkins, you've torn my heart and given me so much to think about. People Kill People is smart, eloquent, beautiful, heartbreaking, and just plain old GOOD! It's a book that we desperately need right now; one that looks at the tough issues head on, makes them personal and relatable and forces you to confront them face to face. This book pulls no punches, takes no prisoners, and does not suffer fool on issues like gun control, mental health, youth homelessness, abuse, white supremacy, and immigration. Put this in the hands of all readers, but especially the ones who love and appreciate titles like The Hate U Give & Long Way Down. Hell, put them on display together and let the sheer power of these authors and their words loose in the world!
Profile Image for Gray Cox.
Author 4 books164 followers
June 5, 2019
See, the absolute truth is people do kill people. A gun just makes it easier.

Two stars off for the sexual content, as per usual with Ellen's writing, I wish her scenes were less detailed.

Altogether a thought-provoking book though.
Profile Image for Deborah Hightower.
114 reviews2 followers
September 9, 2018
This book was very disturbing to read but so necessary. Gun violence occurs on a regular basis. In the last few days while I was finishing this book a man with mental health issues legally bought a gun and shot people in a bank and a female police officer entered an apartment she mistook for hers and shot and killed the man inside. Each time this happens we ask questions like why did the person shoot? How did they get a gun? What was going on in their life to make them snap? Just as the author points out, it is not the gun that kills people. When used/stored properly, guns are safe for protection and hunting. It is people that cause the tragedies that have become a normal part of our daily lives. The focus needs to be on keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. While reading the book, I found the words written in verse that went with each chapter even more disturbing than the story itself. Thank you #NetGalley for the ARC copy of #PeopleKillPeople.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,097 reviews129 followers
September 5, 2018
Like all of Ellen Hopkins' novels, this is intense. 

We know from the onset (literally even before we start to read) that someone will die. We don't know who, or who will do the shooting. 

And from the beginning, we know that some of these characters are completely awful. I feel guilty, but I was definitely hoping for one or two of the characters to be shot and killed. (Yes, I do console myself with the fact that they're fictional people. It helps. A little.) And all of the characters are flawed, but a few are genuinely bad people. 

The tension slowly increases throughout the book, and it starts to become almost unbearable within the last 50 pages.

Highly recommended, but be aware that the ending is brutal. 
Profile Image for elena.
216 reviews35 followers
September 11, 2018
I'm always so incredibly impressed with Ellen Hopkins' ability to emotionally wreck me. She is seriously one of my favorite writers. She always writes about something relevant and hard to read, always writes for the education and betterment of people. And she does it so well. I love her stories, how well-written her characters are, and how absolutely beautiful her words are when they come together, whether in verse or in prose. I'll for sure read her books as long as she writes them.
Profile Image for Meaghan.
546 reviews75 followers
January 15, 2019
“It doesn’t matter how the gun
fell into the wrong hands.

It only matters that it did.”

People Kill People follows the story of the essence of violence and a gun, and how these two work to affect the lives of 6 distinct people. Told in a combination of verse and second person prose, Hopkins manages to weave a tale that both grips you and frightens you, all while discussing the truth of violence and weapons.

I’ve been reading Hopkins’s books for a few years now and while you would think I would have gotten used to the depth and darkness in each of her novels, each one continues to both surprise and frighten me. The combination of topic, characters, and writing style always work to reveal dark truths in our society in a way that truly affects the reader, at least in my opinion. People Kill People is not a deviation from this trend, though I must admit it’s not her strongest work, despite my high hopes for it. Additionally, Hopkins moves away from writing only in verse to also bring in second person prose, and this combination draws in the reader even more than other novels.

My favorite part of this novel has to be the contrast of voices and style it is written in. The story is brought to us by this “essence” of violence, or the urge within humans to be violent and hurt each other. Hopkins personifies this urge and gives it a voice, and this voice is who guides us between the main human characters of the novel. It is this essence/urge that speaks in verse and narrates the introductions of the characters, as well as commenting on the events after we’ve heard part of the story from a certain character. The characters themselves are written in second person, and it works to literally insert us “into the characters’ skins”. While this is often off putting, as second person prose is hard to do well, Hopkins use of it only strengthens the novel. Part of the purpose of this book is to show that everyone and anyone is capable of violence, that it’s an innate part of us, and this second person perspective highlights this by putting you in the shoes of people considering violence. It brings you closer to the subject and more understanding of their actions or almost actions, an understanding which sometimes scares you. All in all, the writing style works extremely well with the story Hopkins told and the effect she wanted to have.

In terms of character and story, there isn’t all that much for me to comment on. Not all the characters were likable, if even any were, but that also wasn’t the point. You were still able to understand their motives and where they were coming from, most of the time. The story was also interesting, but the specific events that happened weren’t always important, just how they pushed the character further and further to violence.

My only issue with the book is that, compared to Hopkins’s other books, the ending fell flat. Like the synopsis and beginning of the book says, someone dies and someone else was the killer, and while I was definitely surprised by who filled each role, the impact of this death/kill seemed to be little, mostly due to how the rest of the book was written. We continue to see the rest of the characters after this death, from how it impacted them personally to where they end up later. However, it seemed like, in the end, this death didn’t even matter and had no lasting consequences for any of the characters we see. It made the ending so much weaker and I find myself now wishing that the book had ended just after the death, rather than giving us this longer, more explained ending. It just worked to weaken the story overall.

In the end, I really liked this novel and I cannot wait to see what Hopkins writes next! (Though there are still quite a few of her novels I need to catch up on…)
Profile Image for Chelsea.
28 reviews11 followers
March 24, 2019
This is a difficult book to review without spoilers. Overt spoilers will be marked accordingly but if you want to steer clear of spoilers it is probably best if you steer clear of this review.

People Kill People’s premise is a polarizing one. Hopkins, through the narration of Violence personified in poetry, introduces us to six young adults who are all set up to be potential killers. We know that by the end of this book someone will shoot and someone will die. Each character seems to have a motive to shoot.

Red herrings abound. It nearly gave me whiplash.

Maybe I was never destined to get on board with this book. Turning a serious social issue into a sensationalized “whodunit” mystery is cringeworthy. It takes away from the gravity of gun violence and becomes a part of the very problem it is commenting on. For me, this book’s attempt at making a comment on sensationalized violence in our society completely backfired.

The form was very intentional. It was unlike anything I have ever read before and self-aware about how engrossed we are as a society in the gory details. However, the form was ruling the story rather than the characters, or even the plot, which is not what I look for in my reading material. The book felt more concerned with form rather than smart handling of its delicate subject matter directed at young adults, which should take precedent.

Style and form experimentation does not make up for caricatures as characters. No one felt real to me. The use of second-person for the six main characters took me right out of the story and distanced me from the characters. The most insane character-to-character interaction:

Instead of treating this issue with care the story was contrived to serve the form and feed Violence’s twisted way of sucking people into its destructive vortex – character and reader alike.

Give this book a try if you:
- Like Hopkins’s other work
- Value form over characters
- Like to sift through red herrings
Profile Image for Nadine.
1,142 reviews217 followers
November 28, 2018
I’ve been an avid Ellen Hopkins fan since high school. Her books are always hard hitting, poignant, and unrelenting. Hopkins does not coddle her readers nor does she handle them with kid gloves. Her novels always feature triggering topics and People Kill People is no exception.

Hopkins’ writing style is certainly not for everyone. She writes almost exclusively in verse. This choice allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the characters and situations since the act of writing in verse cuts the unnecessary descriptions that would otherwise bog down the story. So, I was surprised and a little disappointed that People Kill People doesn’t follow its predecessors. There are bits of verse sprinkled throughout, however most of the story is told through prose. However, this prose isn’t what is traditionally found in other novels. Instead, it’s choppy and to the point. I would have appreciated the novel more had it been written in Hopkins’ signature verse.

The narrator throughout People Kill People is an unknown omnipresent being that I interpreted as the embodiment of dangerous impulses and/or chaos whispering to the characters their deepest and darkest thoughts. Some choose to listen, some choose to ignore, and some slowly embrace them. This choice is narration is easily one of the best aspects of the novel.

I should have seen the ending of this novel coming a mile away. It’s set up so well that I feel a little stupid for missing it. Though it’s an obvious conclusion and a point that been made over and over, it’s still an important one to uphold. With gun reform and gun safety at the center of most debates on how to protect the most vulnerable in our society, People Kill People is a timely piece of writing that is unrelenting in its fight for gun reform. People Kill People takes readers into the minds of six different teenagers with various reasons for picking up a gun and altering the lives of everyone around them. Gun violence is at the forefront of this novel along with other various triggering topics, so use caution when approaching this read.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,421 reviews84 followers
October 9, 2018
What do you say about a talent and a passion like Ellen Hopkins? You say, "Thank you, World."

This book reads differently from others of her books...usually each character speaks for him or herself in first person poetry...here...the first person narrator is a gun. And all the seductive power of believing guns give you power....

The character narrations are prose pieces that invite us to slip into someone else's skin...in second person, we learn what motivates, what frightens, what enrages our young characters. We learn of the old wounds that have never been healed.

We know the gun destroys an older couple at the very beginning, and we know a young person has bought the weapon illegally...and we meet our cast, without knowing who has the gun...and the gun isn't telling...the poetry interludes between each character's pages just reminds us that really it doesn't matter WHO has the gun...because the means for destruction go far beyond a physical weapon.

As usual, social issues weigh our young people down...some are already dealing with the trauma of sudden, violent death. All are damaged. Doing the best they can...Rand and Cami are barely adults and already parents...Silas is flirting with white supremacy...Daniel is motherless and now fatherless, tossed out by his stepmother like trash. Noelle is dealing with the aftermath of a gun attack that has left her traumatized and damaged.

And in the center, connecting all these? Grace. Is her name an accident? Not with Ellen Hopkins in charge.

The action centers around a DACA demonstration and a counter demonstration...as characters get closer, and violence is expected, the tension rises...but the suddenness of the tragedy is totally unexpected. I moaned aloud when I learned who had the gun, and what happens next.

The last poem is profound...and needs to be part of all conversations about violence...

Thank you, World, for Ellen Hopkins.
Profile Image for Marte.
426 reviews45 followers
September 20, 2020
Wow, what a let-down.

I’ve been eyeing this for quite some time. Both because of the hype surrounding the author and, mostly, because of its subject matter. Recently we have seen more and more YA explore gun violence, but not often from the perspectives of multiple possible perpetrators.

People Kill People separated itself from the crowd in that way. It offered not only an exploration of the topic, but also a mystery; who would pull the trigger and who would die? In retrospect it’s ironic how a book critiquing the sensationalizing of guns wants the reader to ask: whodunit?

The book is narrated by a manifestation of violence. This voice of violence alternates between speaking directly to you, the reader, and letting you slip into the lives of six different characters.
In these segments the book's format changes from Ellen Hopkins well-known verses, to a second-person narrative. Yeah, second person
And this could have been an interesting format, but it felt as nothing more than an ineffective gimmick.

I think Aneesh Chaganty, the director of Searching said it very well in an episode of Beyond the Screenplay:
“It would fail if we were writing the movie that took place on screens. What we needed to write was the movie”
Searching is a movie entirely taking place on a single computer screen. A very unique format, right? But also just a good movie.

And that’s the problem with People Kill People. This book is all style and no substance. All tell and no show.

It’s not enough to experiment with verses if your characters are flat. And no, giving every character – and I mean every single one – a tragic backstory does not make them complex.
It’s not enough to have unique second-person narrator if your plot has no clear pace or rise in action.

Because before you write that unique format, you have to write a good story.
Profile Image for Mary Books and Cookies.
544 reviews407 followers
January 25, 2019
3.5 stars - as always, I love Hopkins' unique style and I LOVE that she made Violence the narrator (others have said it's Chaos or Temptation, but I think it's up for everyone's interpretation). It's an important book, with a very sensitive subject matter - gun violence. I didn't really connect with the characters, though, and while the subject matter is memorable and it did make an impact on me, there was something lacking.
Profile Image for Krissy Michelle Roberts.
502 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2018
I will admit this book caused some INTENSE anxiety. Which is why it took me longer than usual to finish. However, it was such an important topic to address. It may make you uncomfortable, but the ugly truth often does.

The title really says it all. People. Kill. People.
Profile Image for Dezra Bennett.
133 reviews10 followers
January 31, 2019
This was definitely a quick read, but not something I'd ever pick up again due to the topic.
Profile Image for Lost in Book Land.
523 reviews94 followers
January 25, 2019
Before I got sick I finished People Kill People by one of my favorite authors ever (Ellen Hopkins) and I am just going to get this out of the way right now I was really upset and disappointed with this book and that is a totally new feeling for me with one of her books.


I knew going into this book it would be controversial and I was totally okay with that and more than ready to jump into it. Hopkins has always done amazingly with topics that are controversial or delicate. She has always spun a graceful masterpiece that has kept me turning pages until the very end, wanting to know how things would turn out for the characters. However, this book was not like that, and maybe since I have come to expect that with her books that was a part of the let down for me. Going into this book I knew the topic would be guns and gun violence, however, I thought the situation that occurred in the book would be very different. Based on the back of the cover and early reviews I read I thought there was going to come a time in this book when our main characters (we follow a bunch of different perspectives, which is normal in her books but her writing style was much different this time) would come together and there would be a gun-related incident. There were a few gun incidents in the book (none like how the reader would think). The story went by slowly and was outside of her usual writing style (she usually writes in verse, and there was some verse in this book but mostly it was like a regular multiple perspective chapter book). On top of the main topic, there was also the side topics, for example, there was a main character who was in a youth white supremacist group.

Personally, I did not enjoy this book like I have all of Hopkins other books and it really makes me sad. All the reasons above are things I took issue within the book (writing style change, the book not really being what it was sold as on the back/ early talk, no real rising action, etc..) I was fine with the controversial nature of the topics in the book and I was okay reading about them I just feel it was lacking something she has had in all of the past books where she writes about controversial topics. I will continue to read her books and be a loyal fan but I do hope she goes back to her other writing style soon. I gave this book two stars on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Stay Fetters.
2,042 reviews119 followers
August 9, 2018
"Contemplate. What’s required to become the catalyst for death? A moral compass, sprung and spinning haywire? Antifreeze, flowing through your veins. Or, perhaps, nothing more than circumstance?"

I’ve hard the hardest time coming up with a rating for and I’m going to have an even harder time writing a review.

Ellen Hopkins comes at you hard, gripping your throat, making your heart beat frantically as she fills you in on what’s going on in the world. The truth that flows through is terrifying, heartbreaking, and something that will stay with you forever. This is her heaviest book to date and I think everyone should read this.

Usually, you get one side to a story and here we see many different parts. From pro to anti, the information stares you down and fills you in.

At first, I seemed to get lost at who was who but it easily settles itself out when things get heavy. The characters all have a uniqueness that differentiates one from the rest and it slides into a comforting familiarity. The story is so gripping that I couldn’t stop reading.

This book is brilliant and important. Just remember to be a part of the solution and not the problem.
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews289 followers
September 27, 2018
All I could think of after reading this book was WOW.
This is my first book I've read by Ellen Hopkins and I think the reason why I've stayed away from her books is not because I didn't think they would be good, but books are an escape for me and I too often see the dark underbelly of the world and so I knew it would be a trigger. But these books are so important and have been important to many people who needed them.
This particular book is fantastic in structure, story, and characters. It is written in third person omniscient as the voice of violence and guns, which is told in poetry form. The rest are the portrayals of several people who have the potential to kill. Each perspective is told in second person, which is the perfect point of view for this book. The whole point is to show that in someone else's shoes, you too may understand what drives a person to violence.
I was completely in awe and in book hangover after this one. Everyone should read it. It's intense but worth it.
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