Monday, February 23, 2009
I just read a fascinating book: Crank by Ellen Hopkins. This book is truly unique because it tells a story through poetry. Every page is a poem that is basically a narrative of a teenage girl who slips through the cracks and into a deep drug addiction.
This book looks very thick and big, but it only took me a couple of hours to read it. Since it's written all in poetry, it's quick to get through. Her style is very cool--her messages are so strong with the way she lays out her words on the pages. It's a truly unique idea that I've never seen before.
Basically, Crank is based on the author's real experiences of her daughter's drug addiction to methamphetamines. The author's note at the beginning of the book attest to this. The characters are adaptations of real people they knew (or the daughter knew) and real experiences of the family. This must be a way for the family (especially the mother) to vent and heal.
The protagonist, sixteen year-old Kristina, goes to visit her father (her parents are divorced), and on this summer trip, she gets her first taste of sexuality and drugs. She has a lack of supervision because her father is going down the same path. She learns how to make out with a neighbor named Adam who also introduces her to drugs: mostly pot and meth. She even does meth with her dad. She comes back home as a completely different kid. Her parents note a change, but they don't do anything about it.
One element I truly enjoyed about the book is that the character battles between two identities: Kristina and Bree. Kristina is the innocent version of herself, the person she used to be before she started drugs. Bree is the addict part of herself that bends the rules, gets attention, says hurtful things, and walks on the wild side. It's a very smart connection to make about drug addicts. They really do have this other persona, and when you see them acting in this crazy way, it's hard to believe that it's the same person you know and love who's committing all of these foul acts. This duality was very cool to explore in the book.
When Kristina/Bree returns home, she gets herself mixed up with guys and drugs again right as school begins. Her parents can't do anything to control her. She sneaks out. She snorts meth. She smokes meth. She shoots meth. She parties with an older guy named Brandon and he eventually rapes her when they're high. She eventually becomes pregnant with his baby. (This did happen with the author's family as well, and they're taking care of him as a family despite the damages).
Kristina/Bree does meet a decent guy who does drugs with her. He sticks by her even after she is pregnant from the rape. He works to try to pay off many of the bills of her baby.
The ending doesn't really have much closure, more of a result than an understanding or complete turn around. But I don't think that addiction always has that happy ending. It must be hard to turn it all around, especially when you throw a baby into the mix. I didn't think it was a bad ending; it was just abrupt.
I enjoyed looking at the parts where the protagonist was speaking about her mother. That must have been intense to write about what you think your daughter felt about you. The way that her daughter perceives her. It seemed like the author was openly honest and blunt about her flaws and did assign partial blame for the whole situation on herself. The whole book basically looked like they took steps back to analyze the whole problem and learn/grow from it. It is apparent in the construction of the book.
I also really enjoy the way they call crank "the monster." It almost has its own persona that lulls her and lures over her to drive her to this madness, like she has no control. Good use of symbolism.
This book also deserves a second read with a closer reading. The construction of poetry can definitely be further analyzed. The way that she structured each poem holds importance. There is a lot of depth to this book even though it can be read in a matter of hours. For those who enjoy poetry, go at this book for a while...
This book would be great for a YA audience; I could see some teenagers who would eat up this book. But, it has very mature themes and situations, which I would precaution some teenagers to get into this. It does teach the negative ways of drugs and sex, but it depends if you want certain teenagers to hear that message. Depends on ages and maturity levels. Still, for those who can handle it, it does send great messages to forewarn about the dangers of this very scary and very dangerous drug.
Apparently Hopkins has other books: Glass , Burned, Impulse, Identical, and Tricks. The books all look pretty similar, but they're all written in verse, just like Crank. They're all fictional accounts about some pretty serious topics: sexual abuse, prostitution, etc. Check out her website for more info here.
So, what do you think of Crank?