Happy Banned Books Week! I chose to exercise my freedom to read with Crank by Ellen Hopkins. This book is so popular, I rarely see it on the shelf, so when I saw it in the return pile on Friday, I grabbed it and checked it out. I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
Crank tells the story of Kristina Snow, a teenage girl suffering the pain of trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. She is introduced to drugs by a boy she meets on a summer visit to her estranged father’s and finds herself becoming addicted, losing control of her life, herself and her decisions.
Initially, it was surprising how fast reading a novel in verse can be. Crank is somewhat brick-like at 537 pages, but it goes quickly. Making rapid progress through such a thick book could be encouraging to a struggling reader, or to someone who doesn’t think of herself as a reader.
About a third of the way through, I found myself caught up in Kristina’s monologue. I began to notice more subtlety to the poems. In some there is a succinct line through the words outside of each stanza that gave an even greater depth to the poem’s main idea. These lines were like echos showing just how bad things had gotten for her, and suggesting implications beyond her specific situation.
Ultimately, I found Crank upsetting and thought-provoking. I felt sympathy for Kristina and horror at the situations she gets herself into. The scenes involving her family and her one good boyfriend trying to reach out to her and help her, but failing to connect, were particularly wrenching.
I think this would be a great book to discuss in a group–perhaps, if I may make a subversive suggestion, as a high school summer reading book. The “bad” things in this book–drugs, sex, rape, unwanted pregnancy–are things that exist in the world, things many teens, many people, face either in their own lives, or in the lives of people they know. Instead of trying to take a book like this away from schools and libraries, we could use this book to spark discussions, to bring these “bad” things to light and look directly at them. I don’t know if that means we can prevent stories like Kristina’s, but talking about them has got to get us closer to preventing them, or at least providing some comfort to people who have experienced these things, than censorship can.
— Erin Daly, currently reading Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore