Bravely, Hopkins tackles themes of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the personal impact of the U.S.'s involvement in those conflicts. The story follows a young woman (Ashley) who forms a relationship with a marine (Cole) who has a poetic soul but is also ambitious in military terms. The narrative goes through about five years of the growth and ultimate destruction of their relationship through the pressures of war and personal change. There's a subplot that involves a mirror story of Ash's best friend's relationship, and marriage, to another military guy.
Some readers may be offended by conclusions Hopkins seems to draw about the impact of war on interpersonal relationships - and Hopkins acknowledges this in her introductory section. But regardless of how one feels about the underlying political themes, I found this book to be a moving portrait of shattered hopes and dreams involving a first love challenged by the realities of war. It was not a book I expected to like because I generally don't like reading fictional accounts of true political issues (particularly war). But this book took those themes to a very personal level and engaged me in a profound way. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it and I'm glad Hopkins has turned her novel-in-verse style to new themes. And, speaking of novels-in-verse, this was another type of writing I never thought I'd enjoy, but in Hopkins' capable hands it's really like reading a "regular" book, but the verse creates a different atmosphere that I think allows the reader to focus in more deeply on the psyches of the characters. In this case, both Ashley and Cole get to "speak" in verse, although Ashley does most of the talking. But the poems/passages in Cole's voice are a masterful addition that adds depth and pathos and gives the mirror point of view to that of the narrator (Ashley). I highly recommend this book, but maybe not for younger audiences because there are some very adult themes, particularly in terms of sex and some violence.