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A Novel

  • reading group guide
From the New York Times bestselling author of Triangles comes an exquisitely told story about a young woman torn between passionate first love and the disturbing realities of war.

The last thing Ashley ever expected was to end up a military wife. But Cole doesn’t match her stereotype of the aggressive Marine. He’s pas­sionate and romantic, and their relationship evolves into a deeply felt, sexually charged love affair that survives four deployments. Cole desper­ately wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a college professor, 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 their friends, family, and lovers who also sacrifice their lives and happiness for their country at war. Is the collateral damage worth the fight?
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 512 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451626384 | 
  • July 2013
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Meet Bestselling Author Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins talks about her writing process.

Read an Excerpt

Collateral 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... see more
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... see more
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... see more

Hear an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Collateral includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Ashley Patterson, a graduate student and poet, never expected to become a military wife. But she and her best friend, Darian, fall for soldiers, both on separate paths to war. Darian and Spencer marry right away, for better or for worse, but Ashley and Cole choose to take it slower. Five years and four deployments later, Ashley is still passionately connected to Cole—her poetic, sensitive Marine. But as she looks back on the history of their relationship, she realizes that he has changed—the fear and tedium of war are starting to take a toll. Ashley’s doubts grow as Cole rises in the ranks, and she finds herself drawn to her poetry professor, Jonah, a laid-back surfer who encourages her to follow her dreams and never settle for anyone else’s ambitions. As Cole’s suppressed fury comes to the surface, Ashley must find the courage to fight her own battles.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss what it was like to read Collateral, a novel in verse. How long did it take you adapt to this narrative form? Wh see more

About the Author

Ellen Hopkins
Sonya Sones

Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkinsis the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, Smoke, and Rumble, as well as the adult novels Triangles and Collateral. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she has founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative. Visit her at and on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter at @EllenHopkinsYA. For more information on Ventana Sierra, go to




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