Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K. Elderry, 2010
Plot Summary: Katrina, or should we say her alter ego Bree, met a monster. That monster is meth, or crank. It all started during a visit to her less than reputable father in California. Under his lax supervision, Bree met a young man named Adam who introduced her to the yellow powdery substance. She struggles to keep the normal Kristina and the risk-taking dangerous Bree in check when she moves back home. There, she juggles a relationship with two teenage boys, one of whom rapes her and impregnates her. Now Kristina must conquer the monster, deal with her past, and accept the possibility of parenthood.
Critical Analysis: In the introduction, Hopkins says this story is not specifically based on true events, but writes that nothing that happens is at all impossible. Crank's narrative is written in free form poems that use page placement and line breaks to illustrate or accentuate certain words or diction rhythms. This makes the book a very quick read not only because of the controversial and admittedly enthralling subject matter but because the pages are not all text. On occasion, the separated words will spell out a sentence vertically and make sense horizontally in the narrative, which I found clever.
Crank is written to show teenagers the horrors of meth and substance abuse and is mostly successful. Bree makes some terrible decisions and as a reader it is painful to read and observe their consequences. On the other side, it felt as if Hopkins tacked on a happy ending. Bree turns back into Katrina seemingly out of nowhere. Methamphetamine is no joke and I'm sure the symptoms of withdrawal and the real life consequences are devastating, but this possibility is glossed over. I think the book still has the desired effect of showing teens the horrors of meth, but I wish Hopkins had stuck to her guns and taken a few more risks to show that its not so easy to dance with the devil then walk away.
Despite its subject matter, Hopkins manages to not sound preachy throughout Crank. It could have very easily turned into a D.A.R.E. pamphlet, but for the most part Hopkins plays a good documentary filmmaker and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions and opinions on the events that occur. Hopkins also manages to make the story interesting enough to want to keep reading it, I blew through it in only a few days.
Reader's Annotation: Bree shook hands with the monster. Now she and her alter ego Katrina must face the consequences.
Author Information: Hopkins inspiration for this story was partially based on her older daughter's addiction to crystal meth. She lives in Long Beach, California, one of the settings for Crank. She has also written a number of nonfiction books and has done freelance writing and journalism.
Genre: drama, poetry, young adult, realistic fiction
Curriculum Ties: Crank could easily be implemented in a health class in which kids are learning about drugs. Although its fictionalized, it portrays believable outcomes of serious addictions.
Reading level: 14-18
Challenge Issues: depictions of drugs and teen sex with some consequence, its been challenged before
Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.
Why I included this title: Ellen Hopkins' books have cover appeal, they always look interesting and edgy. This is why I chose it to read. I had also been reading too many fantasy and science fiction books, so I wanted to include some different genres.