01 October, 2011

Crank - Banned Book Review

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Publication Date: 5 Oct 2004 by Simon Pulse
ISBN 10/13: 0689865198 | 9780689865190

Category: Young Adult Realistic Novel in Verse
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, eBook/Kindle
Keywords: Based on a True Story, Addiction, Drugs, Sex, Banned

Alethea's review:

Ellen Hopkins's debut YA novel is a cautionary tale first and foremost. This collection of poetry tells the story of her daughter Kristina--a bright, pretty, but damaged girl who makes some painful and disastrous decisions in her young life. Underlying it all is tragedy--the author's family drama made public. The scandalous subject matter coupled with adults' perception of how a tale like this might affect its intended audience--teenagers and other young people made to witness mature topics "before their time", has led to its being challenged and banned in various communities.

Kristina seems to go from zero to sixty into a drugged-out, sexed-up downward spiral--this abruptness is what I liked least about the book, though I can see both that a) it's very possible it really happened this way and b) for storytelling purposes, it still works better than a gradual decline. The language is cutting, crystalline, harsh--the alignment (disalignment? malignment?) of the printed words emphasize the disorder and compulsions that drive Bree, nee Kristina, to waste and wither even as a new life develops within her body. The overt lessons in Crank are quite direct--don't do drugs, don't be careless with sex, seek help when you need it, but miss that last hit of credibility. The voices of the character and the author both seem unreliable somehow. However, while Crank is not my favorite of Ellen's books, it's a must-read to set the stage for the rest of her stories. 

I have met Ellen Hopkins and I trust her writing. I have listened to her read from some of her later books (Fallout, Perfect) and her words have moved me to tears. I believe that, dark as it is, her narratives are important and even necessary to touch topics no parent wants to have to talk about with their kids. It's hard enough to do it as a preventative--what do you say when your child is, or--heaven forbid--you are the one with the addiction? Hopkins will touch the topics no one else will touch. She wrestles with the monster in the hopes that other Kristinas (and maybe even Adams) will be saved; not just to prevent teens from using drugs, committing crimes, or being sexually abused, but also for those teens who have been there and done that, and who no longer believe they can be redeemed.

If you ever go to one of her signings, especially in a place even a teensy bit urban, watch the end of the signing line. You might see some grave faces, usually of young men, hanging back and letting the girls go first. Baggy pants inched just a bit higher than normal, freshly washed, facial hair, piercings and tats, moderate bling. Deep voices speaking softly and respectfully, almost shyly as they ask her to sign her autograph. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. Hopkins turns more than just pages.

To ban Ellen Hopkins is to wash our hands of good people who do bad things; generally something frowned upon by faiths that preach forgiveness and good will. You can find out more about her at www.ellenhopkins.com, and read a banned book story from one of my favorite librarians, Dr. Karin Perry (www.karinsbooknook.com)

Follow @ellenhopkinsya on Twitter and keep up with her on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. i had no idea this was based on real events. i've been meaning to read it for awhile now.