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Crank

Ellen Hopkins's semi-autobiographical verse novel, Crank, reads like a Go Ask Alice for the 21st century. In it, she chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank. Soon, her grades plummet, her relationships with family and friends deteriorate, and she needs more and more of the monster just to get through the day. Kristina hits her lowest point when she is raped by one of her drug dealers and becomes pregnant as a result. Her decision to keep the baby slows her drug use, but doesn't stop it, and the author leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Kristina/Bree may never be free from her addiction. In the author's note, Hopkins warns "nothing in this story is impossible," but when Kristina's controlled, high-powered mother allows her teenage daughter to visit her biological father (a nearly homeless known drug user), the story feels unbelievable. Still, the descriptions of crystal meth use and its consequences are powerful, and will horrify and transfix older teenage readers, just as Alice did over 20 years ago. --Jennifer Hubert

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