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Ellen Hopkins. Atria, $24.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-4516-2637-7

Bestselling author Hopkins turns her signature free verse style to modern war and its fallout for her second adult novel (after Triangles). College student Ashley Patterson meets Cole Gleason, a Marine, in a bar; they fall in like, in lust, in love. Their relationship spans the ups and downs of five years and four deployments. Cole’s experiences in the war zone, what he has to do to survive, and how it translates to the home front define the relationship, as Ashley struggles to build a life simultaneously with and without him: “Semper Gumby. Always flexible.” She works with veterans at the VA hospital: “A few showed me their ramblings. I could/ fix their grammar. But not their memories.” Free verse from two perspectives (using different fonts; san serif for Cole, serif for Ashley) mixes with earnest, often sorrowful poems written by Ashley and Cole: “Ask/ a soldier// what he believes in./ He’ll tell you God. Country./ The patient hands of death—.” The link between war and poetry is nothing new, and, over almost 500 pages, Hopkins turns the sum of her disparate parts into a clear narrative that is uplifting and heartbreaking, but also familiar and a little too easy, featuring characters grappling with the serious issues of our time. Agent: Laura Rennert, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Nov.)