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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Searing Crank A Vivid, Disturbing Cautionary Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Crank is more than a drug.
It's a way of life. You can
turn your back. But you can never really walk away (537).

I usually shy away from books described as "raw," "edgy," "disturbing" or the like, since such adjectives almost always signify a story with more language/sex/violence/gore than I want to ingest. Considering that Crank by Ellen Hopkins is just such a tale, you may wonder why in the world I picked it up. I asked myself the same thing as I raced through its very gritty pages. Well, first of all, Crank's the first book in a best-selling trilogy that's gotten a lot of buzz around the blogosphere. Second, it's a novel-in-verse and I'm really digging those lately. Third, its kind of difficult to put down. Really difficult, in fact. Because, somehow, this extremely unsettling book is also completely mesmerizing. And very, very affecting.

Loosely based on the experience of the author's teenage daughter, Crank begins the story of 16-year-old Kristina Snow, a good girl from Reno who gets her first taste of crystal meth while visiting her estranged father in California. An addict himself, he doesn't try to stop Kristina from using the drug - he joins her. Partying with her new "friends" makes Kristina feel loose, like a whole different person. Of course, as freeing as it is, this new hobby is only a temporary thing, a vacation thing, something she'll shrug off as soon as she's back in Nevada. She wouldn't even have a clue where to buy drugs back home.

Turns out, though, Kristina's got a real hunger for meth. The need for it doesn't dissipate when she returns home - it multiplies. It also turns out, she doesn't have to go very far to get what she needs. Soon, she's toking on a daily basis, blissing out to take the edge off her worries. It's under control, though. Kristina can stop any time she wants to ... until she can't anymore. As her lust for the drug grows, the good girl turns into someone she hardly recognizes, someone who lies, steals, deals, lets herself be used - anything to score another hit of the monster that's slowly consuming her.

As Kristina battles her all-consuming addiction, every other concern falls by the wayside. She's flunking her classes, draining her savings account, scaring her family, and doing irreversible damage to her body. And she doesn't care. Not while she's in the clutches of the monster. It's that freedom from worry, that sweet release, that keeps her coming back for more. And more. And more. Even when she discovers a new life forming inside her, she can't stop killing herself. Not for nine months. Not for nine days. Maybe not for nine minutes. Not when the monster is calling ...

Like I said, Crank fits all of the descriptions I listed above - it's raw, it's edgy, it's disturbing. It's all of those things and more. It tells it like it is in a way that's vivid, impactful and, surprisingly, sympathetic. Crank never glamorizes addiction, not in the least, but it shows how quickly and easily drugs can consume a person. Since Hopkins is a mother who's watched her daughter destroy herself with meth, the desperation felt by Kristina's family comes through loud and clear, even though the story's narrated only by Kristina. As much as I wanted a nice, clean ending for this troubled anti-heroine, I didn't get one. This isn't an easy book or even necessarily a hopeful one, it's a realistic, down-and-dirty look at the life of a drug addict. And it ain't pretty. What it is is an honest, unforgettable cautionary tale that will, hopefully, find its mark with the legions of teens (and adults) who are tempted every day by the lure of that most ferocious of monsters, crystal meth.

(Readalikes: I'm not sure I've read any other books about teenage drug addiction, so I'm not sure on this one. Any suggestions?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, violence, sexual content and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love: Another library

1 comment:

  1. Crank is such a good book about teenage addiction. It really brings out the reality of drug addiction and how terrible it can be. Really good review.


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