Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Kicking off Banned Books Week, Crank is a highly challenged novel. And let me tell you–if  you want a controversial book, this is it. It has everything: drugs, sex, profanity, rape, teenage pregnancy, hematophagy (drinking blood), suicide, homosexuality, divorce, absentee parents, and even mentions the occult.

I actually listened to the audiobook for this one, making it the first audiobook I’ve ever consumed! It was a great first, since the entire book is written in prose, which I think is better heard than read, and the woman who read the novel did a great job. It wasn’t difficult to follow along at all, and I’m a visual person.

Crank is about personal identity. Kristina is a straight-A student who has never gotten into trouble. She’s the middle child with divorced parents—Kristina’s father is completely absent from her life, while her mother is so wrapped up in herself that she hardly notices her children. Kristina doesn’t know who she is. She has had no guidance from either of her parents, and at times questions whether they even love her. As she’s stumbling about trying to find her identity, she discovers two dissonant parts or herself battling within, and she’s not sure who she wants to win—Kristina or Bree.

Bree is the name Kristina uses to introduce herself to the gorgeous Adam, who lives in the same apartment complex as her father. Bree is the part of her that seeks risk and won’t take no for an answer. Bree is the part of Kristina that’s sick of living by the rules.

So when Adam offers Bree Crank, a slang word for Meth, she throws D.A.R.E. out the window, snorts a line and gets high, as well as addicted.

Crank is a poignant novel that is hard to swallow at times. Kristina makes some terrible choices in her life and destroys absolutely everything she has, from her relationships to her future. It’s a tragic tale beautifully told. I see why this book is so highly challenged since it covers pretty much every controversial topic you can think of. In fact, I think the only topic left off the list was religion, but it’s probably in there somewhere and I just forgot.

The thing about Crank is that it isn’t a D.A.R.E. propaganda novel about the evils of drugs. Kristina enjoys the feelings of being high. She describes the sensation seductively. Although this may worry some parents, I think it’s better to be honest and show that, yeah, being high may feel good in the moment, but it destroys your life. Otherwise teens might see someone having a great time being high and think, “Hey, my parents lied to me. That looks like fun! What else have they lied about to me?” And then they try it.

Crank doesn’t glamorize drugs. Kristina gets high and is absolutely addicted. She needs more and more to enjoy it, and although she describes her parties as exhilarating, she does some stuff that even she realizes is crazy in her more sober moments. It’s difficult not to feel saddened and repelled as you watch the downward spiral of her life.

As great of a novel Crank is, though, I won’t be reading any more in the series. It was a bit too much for me personally.

4 out of 5 stars

 

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