“Crank” Trilogy by Ellen Hopkins
Wow – just wow. This is a scary, powerful, heartbreaking story of a girl falling into the world of drugs and addiction. Of course, knowing it is based on her daughter’s struggle with addiction makes it that much more poignant – and potent. It’s written in verse, but don’t let that put you off. It was quite easy to follow and had a stream of consciousness feeling; not highbrow or obscure, just genuine. Her feelings, her thoughts were so raw and real. Katrina goes on a court ordered visit to see her absentee father, and meets a boy who introduces her to “the monster” (crank). She creates an alter ego she calls Bree who is fearless and outgoing, whereas Kristina is timid and shy. As Bree, Kristina spirals deeper and deeper into trouble – in more ways than one.
I was really amazed by the intensity of this story. I literally sat in a daze because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. She really captures the emotions and twisted logic of an addict. It’s no wonder Hopkins has such a devoted fan base – I’ve heard that this book became a bestseller largely by word of mouth.
I give this book 5 STACKS.
This book continues Kristina’s story shortly after she had her baby. She tries to justify going back to crank by reasoning it will help her lose some of the baby weight, that it will rev her up to study for her GED, and deal with “the mindless tedium that is my life.” But like many addicts, one snort leads to another, and before long she cannot stop – nor does she really want to. The power of the drug is just too much to resist. She tries to make good by taking a job at the 7-Eleven, but meets a dealer named Trey and dives deeper into the madness, eventually even stealing from her mother to finance her habit. What really gave me the chills was the description of Kristina taking care of her infant son Hunter while high. Once, Kristina’s mother came home to find Hunter had rolled under a chair and gotten his head stuck under it while Kristina was passed out on the couch. She promptly kicked Kristina out of the house but kept Hunter. This book was as moving as the first one but I felt like the story was static and didn’t move forward - Kristina, still in trouble and terribly addicted.
I give this book 4 STACKS.
This book is told from the point of view of 3 of Kristina’s 5 children: Hunter, Summer and Autumn. These children are dealing with the “fallout” of Kristina’s actions. Hunter lives with Kristina’m mother, has anger issues and cheats on his girlfriend. Summer doesn’t really know her mother, lives with her paternal granddad and aunt, and is OCD. When her aunt moves out to get married, she feels abandoned and finds that sex fills the void. Autumn has lived with her father and his various girlfriends, until one abused her. She then lived in a string of foster homes, until she fell in love with a boy and decided to run away with him. Through the narrative of each child, we learn about their circumstances and bits about Kristina’s role in it. Hopkins weaves the stories together, culminating with each child embarking on a trek to see their grandmother, Kristina’s mother, for the holidays. Between chapters are faux newspaper articles that update readers on characters from the previous novels. Hopkins really inhabits these characters and I really felt like she grasped the love/hate relationships these children had with their mother, and the way her addiction infiltrated all their lives.
I give this book 5 STACKS.
Side note: According to the American Library Association, Ellen Hopkins is the most challenged/banned author of 2009. These books have depictions of sex, abuse and drug use. While there are some who feel these books should be removed from shelves, it’s impossible to deny that Hopkins has touched the lives of many teens who are dealing with addiction or abuse. She’s also touched my heart and opened my eyes to the horrors of addiction.
See you in the STACKS,
Nancy – who is praying for those who struggle with addiction – and their families.
Nancy, Ellen Hopkins, Stacy and Shannan at the Austin Teen Book Festival 2010