Book Review: Crank

For my latest book review I’m going to be talking about the book Crank by Ellen Hopkins. Crank is a novel that I’d heard about for years but never read until now when my book club with my students picked it.

The novel is inspired by the author’s actual daughter. The book centers around Kristina, a teenage girl, who lives with her mom, stepdad, and siblings in Reno. Her home life seems pretty normal – her mom sometimes is preoccupied with work and whatnot but it’s not like she’s neglected or has a bad home life. Shortly after the novel begins she heads to Albuquerque to stay with her dad for the summer. Her dad is not really a big part of her life and he’s largely absent from it in fact. Even when she spends the summer with him he’s hardly around because he’s drunk or on drugs most of the time. To fit in with a boy she likes she begins doing crank or crystal meth and gets hooked. She returns home before summer ends and is essentially a meth addict. The rest of the novel follows her as her addiction grows and she tries to navigate her teenage life with friends and boys all while keeping her addiction a secret from her mother. The novel is also written in free verse, which took a little while to get used to since it was like reading a continuous poem for hundreds of pages.

crank
crank-1

The book is pretty thick, but it really takes no time to read it because of the poem format. I remember when I first sat down to read it I read 80 pages in 20 minutes!

I found the novel interesting and because of the format it was hard to put the book down because it all flowed together so seamlessly. There never seemed to be a good spot to put it down. However, with that being said, I didn’t love the book either. I found Kristina hard to sympathize with because her life seemed pretty good and her addiction was just ruining her life. She didn’t even seem concerned with trying to get over it. I’d like her more or at least be rooting for her if she was actively trying to stop using but just couldn’t kick it. Since she wasn’t, it was hard for me to find her likable and I don’t know about you but I find it hard to read a novel when you don’t really like anyone in it.

I would be reading the book and be so frustrated with Kristina and want to say “why are you ruining your life?!” Then I’d be baffled by her mom who is oblivious the whole time – or in denial. Either way, if Kristina was as hardcore of a user as she describes then there’s no way she couldn’t tell her daughter was on drugs. I mean, I don’t know any meth users personally but I would assume that someone who is on crystal meth and high all the time would start to show it physically. I guess my annoyance with the characters is a testament to the author’s writing that she was able to make me have such strong feelings about them. Unless, her intention was not for me to dislike them…

The ending of the novel was okay, and I won’t give away how it ends but actually it’s not really the ending. There are 2 more books to the story, which I’m not sure if I’m going to read or not. I read the synopsis of the second book in the series, Glass, and it seems like I’d be even more annoyed with Kristina in that book so I’m not sure I want to read it. I think it’s going to be one of those books that I’ll eventually get to but I’m in no rush.

One thing I have to credit the author with though is how descriptive her writing is in so few words. As mentioned above the novel is written in a form of free verse so there are a lot less words than your typical novel, yet somehow Hopkins is able to make the story come to life and create such vivid imagery and emotion in the readers’ mind with so few words.

For example, in one section or “chapter” titled “Girls Get Screwed” she writes,

The way it’s okay to gift
their heart one day, a
backhand the next, to
move on to the apricot
when the peach
blushes and
bruises. 

These things make me believe
God’s a man, after all.

Storyline was okay, but the writing itself was great.

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