Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Hopkins, E. (2004). Crank. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. 

ISBN-13: 978-1442471818

Genre: Real fiction, Drugs, Meth, Pregnancy, Rape, Parents, Divorce, Substance abuse

Reading level/ interest age: 17+

Plot summary:

Kristina is struggling with school, friends, and parents like any normal high school student. Desperate to get away, she decides to visit her father for two weeks much to her mother’s disappointment. While there, Kristina meets a boy named Adam and falls madly in love with him. She decides to adopt an alternate ego (who she calls Bree) in an attempt to give voice to the attributes she admires in other women. When Adam suggests she try meth, Bree steps up and agrees. At the end of two weeks, Kristina is a distant memory. Bree returns home with a new view of life. She stops going out with her regular friends and makes new connections in an attempt to score more drugs. One of the boys she meets, Brendan, is good looking and Bree decides to date both him and another boy named Chase. During one of her dates with Brendan, things go south and Bree gets raped. She decides not to tell anyone other than Chase and continues her self-destructive path. Her mother is at a loss of what to do with her now unrecognizable daughter and all of Kristina’s friends have stopped calling. The only one Bree cares to listen to now is the voice of her addiction.

Reader’s annotation:

My name is Kristina but I prefer to be called Bree. I’ve lost so much of myself that it’s come to the point where I can’t hear any voice other than the monster.

Information about the author:    
“Born: March 26, 1955 in Long Beach, CA. I was adopted at birth by an older couple. Albert C. Wagner was 72 at the time; Valeria was 42. To put that into perspective, he was born in 1883 and she was born in 1912.

“Grew up: in Palm Springs, CA, in a neighborhood with movie stars and entertainment icons, including Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas and Arnold Palmer. We were, however, the ‘poor rich.’ My father made his money in the steel industry in WWII. I remember the day he had actually earned his million. As a poor immigrant child who was most definitely a self-made man with a 6th grade education, he couldn’t have been prouder.

“Started writing: From the time I knew how to put words on paper. I’ve always been writing something (especially poetry) ever since, although I didn’t start writing for money until around 1992.

“Published: my first poem, a brilliant haiku (I’m pretty sure there were trees and springtime in it), when I was nine. I was always encouraged by my English teachers to write, and won pretty much every creative writing contest I ever entered all the way through high school.

“Graduated: Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 1973. Went on to study journalism in college (Crafton Hills College and UCSB), but dropped out to get married and start a family” (Hopkins, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       Have any of you experienced problems with drug addiction? Friends? Family members? Yourself?
2.       Why do you think Kristina choose to start using and what do you think she could have done differently?

Critical evaluation:

Crank is an extremely dark book with Kristina giving into her alter ego Bree at the end. Just when the reader begins to believe Kristina is making the right choices, she abandons her baby in favor of becoming high again. The book is depressing and has a mood that grips the reader and drags them under. Readers become a part of Kristina’s world and struggle to shrug off the awful feeling the book leaves them with when finished. 

The text is difficult to read because of its small lettering. As the book is written in poetry format, this can be somewhat discouraging as well. Some of the poems require the reader to go through them three times. The right of some pages have to be read separately from the left and then everything needs to be read once more to get a combined meaning. At first, the composition of the poems can make the book problematic to get into and could put off some readers. However, the author is a literary genius, choosing the “less is more” route. Despite the book being told entirely in separate poems, the storyline progresses in one smooth stream. A must-read for those interested in better understanding addiction.

Challenge issues: 

·         Drug addiction
·         Rape
·         Teen pregnancy
·         Suicide
·         Language

Defensive Maneuvers: 

·         Have the library’s collection development policy memorized and on hand in case a situation arises.
·         Keep positive reviews on hand to refer to or hand out when needed.
·         If the book has won any awards, mention them to the patron and briefly explain the award.
·         Listen to the patron and practice good customer service skills when communicating. Let the customer know where or if he/she can escalate his/her complaint.
·         When necessary, cite sections of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights or refer to the ALA's Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials.

Why included:

I decided to include this book because it is so controversial. I think that librarians need to push the envelope on acceptable material for their shelves. Kristina’s struggle with meth and her inability to give up the drug serves as valuable insight into the mind of an addict.


Hopkins, E. (2014). Bio. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from

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