Meet Ashley, a graduate student at San Diego State University. She was raised in northern California reading poetry and singing backupin 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.
Loving Any Soldier
Is extremely hard. Loving a Marine who’s an aggressive frontline marksman
is almost impossible, especially when he’s deployed . . .
. . . 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.
Read an Excerpt
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
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