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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1013

Author: Ellen Hopkins (b. 1955)

First published: 2004

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Biographical fiction; Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Reno, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico

Principal characters

Kristina Snow, a teenager who becomes addicted to crystal meth, also known as crank

Adam , a teenager...

(The entire section contains 1013 words.)

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Author: Ellen Hopkins (b. 1955)

First published: 2004

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Biographical fiction; Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Reno, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico

Principal characters

Kristina Snow, a teenager who becomes addicted to crystal meth, also known as crank

Adam, a teenager in New Mexico who introduces her to crank

Brendan, a lifeguard who befriends her and later rapes her

Chase, her boyfriend

Robyn, a cheerleader and crank user

Marie, Kristina's mother

Scott, Kristina's stepfather

Hunter, Kristina's son

The Story

First published in 2004, Ellen Hopkins's debut novel, Crank, chronicles sixteen-year-old Kristina Snow's descent into methamphetamine addiction and its consequences. The book begins the summer before Kristina's junior year of high school, during which she travels to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to visit her estranged father. She travels from her home in Reno, Nevada, to Albuquerque, where she soon realizes that although she has built up a specific mental image of her father, he is in fact a disappointment. While staying at her father's apartment, she meets an attractive teenager named Adam, who is dating a young woman who lives in the apartment complex. On a whim, Kristina tells him that her name is Bree, which becomes the name she gives to her wild, fearless alter ego. Although Adam has a girlfriend, he and Kristina have a brief fling, during which he introduces her to the drug crank, a form of methamphetamine, which she refers to as "the monster." She experiments with the drug on multiple occasions during her time with Adam, sometimes snorting crank alongside her father. Before she leaves the city, she allows Adam to give her a small heart tattoo as a memento of their time together.Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Upon returning to Reno, Kristina soon finds herself craving crank. She likewise begins to initiate friendships that she would not have otherwise, making contact with a lifeguard named Brandan and the school bad boy, Chase. Although her craving for drugs is temporarily stymied after her mother notices her new tattoo and grounds her, she soon resumes using crank while she spends time with Chase and begins to date. When the school year starts, Kristina has a difficult time getting reoriented to the academic world but eventually begins to adjust. However, her need to get high is triggered once again when she receives a letter from Adam, a phone call from Brendan, and a ride home from Chase all on the same day. She arranges a date with Brendan and asks him to buy her some crank, and he agrees. When they meet up, however, Brendan believes that Kristina owes him sex, and he ultimately rapes her after she does not comply.

After cutting off contact with Brendan, Kristina continues to date Chase and also befriends a fellow student named Robyn, who uses crank in order to keep up with her schoolwork and many extracurricular activities and who teaches Kristina to smoke crank. As Kristina's addiction worsens, her mother and stepfather, Marie and Scott, begin to recognize that something is wrong but remain unaware of the extent of the problem. Kristina begins to spend a great deal of time on the Avenue, the area by the high school where the smokers hang out, and her grades and attendance suffer greatly. On her seventeenth birthday, she goes out with Chase, takes ecstasy, and for the first time tries injecting crank intravenously. Grounded for staying out too late, she sneaks out one night and is picked up by a police officer, who takes her to a juvenile detention facility. There, she meets a girl who helps put her in contact with a drug trafficker, from whom she buys large quantities of crank with the intention of dealing the drug. Not long after, Kristina learns that she is pregnant and realizes that Brendan is the father. Although she initially plans to get an abortion, she instead decides to keep the baby and works to stay drug-free throughout the pregnancy, although she admits to slipping up a few times. At the novel's conclusion, Kristina has given birth to a son, Hunter, and is taking care of him with her family's support. However, her lingering cravings for crank indicate that her battle with the monster is not yet over.

Critical Evaluation

A deeply personal work, Crank is loosely based on the experiences of author Ellen Hopkins's daughter Cristal, who became addicted to methamphetamine as a teenager. Building off of her knowledge of her daughter's experiences as well as her own perspective as Cristal's mother, Hopkins crafts a compelling depiction of the enticing early stages of drug use and the devastating events that can occur during and after the descent into full-blown addiction. Due in part to Hopkins's firsthand knowledge, the novel is highly realistic and serves as both a cautionary tale that seeks to deter teens from experimentation with drugs and as a source of support and comfort for families affected by similar "monsters" to demonstrate that they are not alone.

In addition to its realism, Crank is particularly striking in its use of verse rather than traditional prose. The novel consists of numerous short chapters written as poetry, which differ in length, structure, and format on the page. The poems provide a beautiful counterpoint to the harsh reality of the novel's events. Through the strategic use of punctuation, spacing, and other formatting within the poems, the text draws tangible boundaries between Kristina and her alter ego, Bree, and between Kristina and everyone else she encounters. By writing Crank in verse, Hopkins created an absorbing and evocative portrait of drug addiction and the manner in which it transforms people and overwhelms everything in its path.

Further Reading

  • Alter, Alexandra. "A Banned and Best-Selling Author." The Wall Street Journal, 12 Sept. 2013, www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324094704579067531035576264. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
  • Review of Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. Kirkus, 20 May 2010, www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellen-hopkins/crank. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
  • Review of Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. Publishers Weekly, vol. 251, no. 44, 1 Nov. 2014, pp. 63–4. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=14940397&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
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