Crank by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book found me after two students used it for a book talk at the start of class--one 8th grade boy, one 8th grade girl. Interestingly, a colleague saw me reading the book and scrunched up her face as if she had tasted something bitter and sour and spoiled--she'd read it too.
In his book talk, the boy talked about the struggle he felt in figuring out what was going on. He was confused. He pressed forward. He admitted he did not understand every page, but he understood enough to want to keep reading--it "hooked me in a lot of different places." He shared the part of the book that kept him the most hooked was the author's note in the front of the novel which he read to the class:
"While this is a work of fiction, it is loosely based on a very true story--my daughter's. The monster did touch her life, and the lives of her family. My family. It is hard to watch someone you love fall so deeply under the spell of a substance that turns him or her into a stranger. Someone you don't even want to know."
"Nothing is impossible in this story. Much of it happened to us, or to families like ours. Many of the characters are composities of real people. If they ring true, they should. The "baby" at the end of the book is now seven years old, and my husband and I have adopted him. He is thriving now, but it took a lot of extra love."
When the girl delivered her book talk (to a different class) she focused on how challenging the story was to read--not the format (free verse)--but the subject matter. The decisions a girl her age made...and the disappointing influences around her. Yet, she admitted, she couldn't put it down.
Both students recommended it to the class...but only if you are mature and willing to look at some of the harder topics of life.
Therefore...I had to read it too.
And it was everything the three people intimated: it challenges you...it hooks you in a lot of different places...and it tastes bitter. That said, God Bless Ellen Hopkins for having the courage to write a story that teens can use to learn about the horrors of "crank" and how drugs will drastically alter your life.
I understand people who want to put their heads in the earth like an ostrich--and in so doing, submerge their son or daughter's head below the surface as well. While life is sweet and beautiful, it is also littered with awful truths. I get that parents want to keep their children protected from these truths...and not every teenager is equipped to read this book. That is also a truth. This is a hard book to digest.
All the more reason for teachers to know the book...in the event that another child, who knows you read the book, comes up and asks, "What did you think of "Crank"...I read it too..."
Books are where kids can meet life on their own terms in a safe place. Adults can be the safety net for when they find these books...and need someone to reassure them and talk them through the moral lesson. For that, I love "Crank" by Ellen Hopkins.
Every year school districts schedule the state police to talk to kids about drinking and driving, texting and driving, etc...often with graphic images that more than make a point in shock value...sometimes schools schedule parents who have suffered with their children through a chemical dependency (we've seen that one a few times). Schools sometimes raise this issues to kids to teach them.
While I am also not handing this book out (some kids just will not be ready for it) I realize that some kids will gravitate to this book. Because they are curious. And they feel ready to read someone's honesty...and for those kids...make yourself ready. This is a book with a great combination of sensitivity and respect for today's YA reader--they want honesty. And Hopkins delivers it.
I read some other reviews of people who did not like the book. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I wanted to add this to the conversation--this is a book written for teens about a really difficult and horrible topic that few have the courage to broach to teens. This book is not "What the Teddy Bear" saw. It is raw and written on a level so teens can engage. The book may just be the panacea to start parents and teens talking.
Good Bless you, Ellen.
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