Crank. By Ellen Hopkins. Simon Pulse, New York. (2004). ISBN-10: 0689865198 (pbk.) 9780689865190

Plot Summary

Kristina is unhappy living at home with her mother, stepfather, and siblings. So she goes to live with her father. Things aren’t great there, it is cold, dirty, dark. Kristina doesn’t find the love she was searching for. So when she meets Adam, the incredibly hot boyfriend of her neighbor Lince, another part of her speaks up. A part of her that is confident, unafraid, rebellious. That part of her has a name: Bree. Bree tries Crank, (crystal meth,)which she deems “The Monster,” for the first time with Adam. She falls for him, big time, but things are complicated. She’s leaving soon. So she reaches for that high once again. A few times. Her dad doesn’t mind: he’s always been a user.

At home things go from bad to worse. Bree takes over Kristina’s life. She meets two boys, seeking them out as much as she seeks out The Monster. It takes over her life, until irreparable damages are done, and there is no way out.

Critical Evaluation

Crank, based on a true story lived through by Hopkins’ daughter, is beautifully told in a steady flow of poetry. Readers will be drawn from page to page and truly feel the weight of Kristina’s drug abuse dragging her down, along with the alluring highs that her character so desires. Hopkins has managed to illustrate a flawed, tragic character with incredible emotional depth. The writing is not preachy or didactic in the least. Yet it also strays from being overly graphic or insensitive. The material dealt with is wrought with difficulty in that Kristina makes mistakes throughout the novel, and the consequences she oftentimes experiences are horrifying. Yet this story “keeps it real,” right down to Kristina’s relationship with her parents, which is also highly developed. The juxtaposition of truth with poetry is a stunning smack to the head which readers will not scoff at, but find themselves attempting to understand more fully.

Reader’s Annotation

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Someone more alluring and attractive, instead of the ugly person you think you are? What if there was something that could take away all the pain? But it has a price: your whole life. It would play nice, but send you spiraling down a tunnel where the only way out is more more more, and before you know it, the person you’ve become is worse than before: scared, numb, needy, and changed forever. Something seemingly beautiful, or momentarily alluring, could end up ruining your life. So what choice would you make? And how exactly would that spiral feel?

About the Author

Ellen Hopkins grew up in Palm Springs, then Santa Ynez, CA with her adoptive parents. She has three children, and has also had a few marriages. She is happily married today and lives with her husband in Nevada. She and her husband have adopted and raised Hunter, their grandson, as their son as a result of the tale that inspired Crank. Hopkins is a Democrat, Lutheran, loves gardening, and travels frequently to discuss her books (Hopkins, 2010).

Books by Hopkins include the sequel to Crank, Glass, Burned, Identical, and the newly published companion to Crank, Fallout. All of her books include “controversial” themes.

She has a blog located at

Hopkins, (2010). Ellen Hopkins website. Retrieved on October 29th, 2010 from

Hopkins, E. (2010). About. Retrieved on October 29th, 2010 from

Genre–Realistic Fiction/Poetry

Curriculum Ties

Drug and sex education- Health


Booktalking Ideas


Teen Experimentation and Drug Use

Modern Poetry

Reading Level/Interest Age

Ages 15 and up , including adult readers(particularly parents with teenage children)

Challenge Issues

Teenage drug use, rape, and teenage pregnancy are all depicted in Crank, however, this is not a lighthearted tale, it is meant as a warning. The author even states so on her dedication page.

Teens may be curious about these things, and a discussion based on literature can improve communication between teenager and parent. This book can be an alternative to dangerous experimentation in real life, as well as a warning for some who already have, or a guide for a parent or teenager watching someone else make similar choices in their lives.


Best Books: 

Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2005 ; American Library Association YALSA; United States
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers, 2005 ; American Library Association YALSA; United States
Young Adults’ Choices, 2006 ; International Reading Association; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes: 

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award, 2009 Winner Illinois
Gateway Readers Award, 2007 1st Place Missouri
Green Mountain Book Award, 2009 Winner Grades 9-12 Vermont
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2009 Winner Grades 7-12 Wyoming
Society of School Librarians International Book Awards, 2005 Honor Book Language Arts-Grades 7-12 Novels United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists: 

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award, 2009 ; Nominee; Illinois
Gateway Readers Award, 2006-2007 ; Nominee; Grades 9-12; Missouri
Green Mountain Book Award, 2008-2009 ; Master List; Grades 9-12; Vermont
Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 2007 ; Nominee; Grades 9-12; Kentucky
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2008-2009 ; Nominee; Grades 7-12; Wyoming
Young Adult Reading Program, 2006 ; South Dakota
Retrieved October 29th, 2010 from Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD) at

Why did you include this book?

Crank is a New York Times Bestseller. Interesting, for a book completely made up of poetry.

Recently, Ellen Hopkins has been all over the news, as her reading event at an Oklahoma school was cancelled when a single parent made a complaint. Ellen responded with, “No one person should have that kind of power. No person should be able to choose what anyone else’s child can or can’t read, let alone who they can see speak to. Some of the kids were devastated(Flood, 2000).”She has written a poem about censorship in further support of Banned Books Week.

Flood, A. (2009). Banned Books Week adopts author’s anti-censorship poem as manifesto. The Guardian, UK. Retrieved October 29th, 2010 from


About thesuperlibrarian

High School Librarian and obsessive reader! On a mission to read as many SUPER YA books as possible!
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