Sometimes I read a New York Times bestseller and I don’t understand why it was that popular. There are a number of authors that make that list, book after book, but I just don’t click with their style of storytelling. It happens. I am certain I am not the only writer who is also a fickle reader.
CRANK is not one of those books.
Kristina is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. Then she meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild ride turns into a struggle for her mind, her soul — her life.
As a side note, that above paragraph, the blurb from the back of the book, was the worst part of the book. Cliché, I thought. Good girl becomes bad girl. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cliché. The book itself, however, was anything but.
Yes, CRANK was about a good girl who falls for the wild ride of meth. Cute boy, young girl, and a father who’d sooner snort with them than tell her of the monster’s downfalls, Kristina started her addiction with all the stars aligned against her. Through the story we follow her as she sometimes fights her addiction and sometimes fights that which would interfere with a continued dependence on the drug. We meet her “good” friends, her “bad” friends, and watch her learn the harsh realities of judging a book – boys – by its cover.
The story itself is superb, but it doesn’t end there. Ellen Hopkins wrote CRANK entirely in free verse poetry.
Wait, wait, wait! Come back. It’s not as scary as it sounds. This is no Beowulf. This is no Dante; as much as I loved reading The Inferno, I wouldn’t recommend it for just anyone. You need patience, and a willingness to flip through the footnotes to get the full effect of those inner circles of Hell. This is not one of those.
Perhaps an example or two, so you, dear Readers, know I am not ambushing you? This sample is titled More on Bree. Bree is the name Kristina gives to the bad girl within her.
those Psych ’01 labels,
I’m no more schizo than most.
no imaginary playmate,
no overactive pituitary,
no alter ego, moving in.
Hers is the face I wear,
treading the riptide,
fathomless oceans where
good girls drown.
Not so bad, right? It’s poetry, but it’s readable, understandable, even enjoyable. Try this sample from Used Up, as Bree/Kristina crashes from her crank high.
What brings this from just a sad story of a teen’s fall into drug abuse to an amazing story, is the unique format, the poetry. Each poem has a layout that conveys the feeling of the passage as much as the words do. Such as Used Up, with its single words dripping down the page, illustrating Bree’s consciousness melting down in to her post-high nose-dive. Other poems are staggered. Some slash violently across the page. Others, spacing chaotic, jump between columns, zig-zagging through Kristina/Bree’s monster-clawed mind.
Unlike Dante, which I could only read a canto or two at a time, I read CRANK in one day. I plowed through half of its 537 pages in one sitting. Only my coffee-full bladder and empty stomach kept me from reading further that morning. I picked up this story, first and foremost, because I want to keep the title of CRANK for my boys, Crandall and Mike. If the book was awful, I’d have considered changing it. Second, I picked it up as research. Meth, crank, the monster, is a nasty addiction that I’ve been considering for a certain character that needs to fall hard, before I’d feel right about picking him up.
Despite the two main reasons of research, I truly enjoyed reading this book. I intend to read it again soon. I suspect it’ll be one of those stories that reveals a little more of itself with a second reading.