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Book Review

This book of poetic realism by Ellen Hopkins is the first in the " Crank" trilogy and is published by Margaret E. McElderry books, a division of Simon and Schuster Children's Books.

Crank is written for kids ages 14 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Sixteen-year-old Kristina Snow embarks on a court ordered visit with her father, whom she hasn't seen or heard from in eight years. When she arrives in Albuquerque N.M., she finds that he isn't quite the man she'd imagined. He smells of smoke and works in a bowling alley. Left alone for most of her visit, Kristina meets Adam, a young man who lives in the same apartment complex. Attracted to him, she pretends to be Bree, the person she is in her daydreams. Bree is confident, brazen and flirtatious.

A week of clandestine talks and kissing lead to the night when Adam asks Kristina to get high with him. She agrees, but doesn't like the mellow feeling marijuana gives her. She wants to try the drug her father takes that makes him high for days.

Adam gives Kristina her first hit of methamphetamine, or "the monster" as she calls it, in a back room of the bowling alley where her father works. From that experience, she is hooked on the intense rush the drug gives her. She and Adam get high several more times before Kristina heads home to Reno, Nev.

Initially, Kristina struggles to fit back in with her family. When she calls to talk to Adam, she learns he is visiting an old girlfriend in the hospital. She wonders how sincere his feelings were for her, especially when he tells her that they should be allowed to date other people.

Kristina attends her stepfather's company picnic at a water park. While there, she again pretends to be Bree and flirts with two boys. One is Brendan, a handsome lifeguard. The other is Chase, a boy from school with a bad reputation. Kristina revels in the boys' attention until her mother notices a tattoo that Adam inked on her thigh. Her mother orders her Grounded Until Further Notice or GUFN.

She spends the rest of her summer doing extra chores and watching television, which gives her more time to plot ways to party with the monster. Her chance comes two days before the beginning of school. Although still grounded, Kristina calls Brendan to help her sneak out of the house. He takes her to a well-known party spot, and the two drink beer and get high.

Still riding the effects of meth, Kristina barely makes it through the first day of school. She gets into an argument with her mother, which causes Kristina to vow to try harder to break her growing addiction. Her resolve remains for a week. Then Brendan asks her for another date. She raids her savings and asks him to buy her some meth before he picks her up. Instead of partying with a crowd, Brendan drives her to a secluded grove of evergreens. After they enjoy a hit of meth and a six-pack of beer, he rapes Kristina.

Kristina turns to Chase for emotional healing. Chase is patient and comforting and the two begin dating. But Kristina's life continues to spiral downward as she delves ever deeper into the drug culture by becoming a dealer. The only thing that keeps her from destroying herself entirely is discovering she's pregnant. She is horrified to learn that the father is Brendan, not Chase.

Even with this news, Chase asks her to marry him. She refuses, knowing she's not ready for the commitment. She pressures Brendan into giving her money for an abortion, but while waiting at the clinic, she feels the baby move and can't go through with the procedure. She tells her parents and accepts their help in raising her child. Even as she embarks on motherhood, Kristina admits to still heeding the siren call of the monster.

Christian Beliefs

Kristina refers to Adam as being an angel several times. He tells her she is his Eve, and they should run away to live in a garden. Kristina describes her first experience with meth as launching her to a place near the gates of heaven. After contemplating how boys manipulate girls, she surmises that God must be male. Adam's mother prays that he will make better choices than his father and brother. In "Changed," a poem shaped like a cross, Kristina thinks about praying but decides God has better things to do than help a drug addict. But in the words that form the arms of the cross, she asks God to keep her safe. When she feels her baby move at the abortion clinic, even though she later learns it was far too early for her to feel it, she takes it as a sign from God to keep her child.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Kristina's biological father opens the door to her experimentation with sex and drugs. He voices only a voyeuristic concern when he asks whether she and Adam have had sex. When he discovers her in the back room of the bowling alley with Adam, he joins them in partying. After she returns home to her mother, her father never calls or writes her.

Kristina's mother and stepfather are caring but too self-absorbed to see her rapid spiral into addiction. They ground Kristina and force her to do extra chores when they find a tattoo on her thigh. Both her mother and stepfather question whether she is doing drugs, but both are quick to accept her lies. Kristina admits part of her wished they would have pressed harder so she could have told them the truth. During a family outing at an air show, her mother and stepfather flirt with other people.

When Kristina spends a weekend in a juvenile detention facility for being out after curfew, the only thing she learns is the name of a man who makes his own meth and how to get in touch with him.


Crank portrays meth addiction and its subculture. As such, the book is laced with profanity including f---, b--tard, h---, d--n, b--ch and s---. Other crude references are pee, pissed, fart and screwed. God's name is used several times with oh and oh my.

After her first experience with meth, Kristina attempts to find her way home alone from the bowling alley. Three thugs approach her, force her into an alley and start to rip off her clothes. Adam saves her.

Adam's previous girlfriend ends up in ICU after she discovers Adam and Kristina together and jumps from an apartment stairwell. Brendan's rape of Kristina is brutally and graphically recounted. Kristina's mother slaps her across the face when Kristina swears at her. While high at a party, Kristina and other guests slice their arms and drink each others' blood.


Kristina's first encounters with Adam are filled with sexual tension and kissing as she begins to let her guard down. Once she's had her first hit of meth, she is more willing to have sex with him — several times they come close to completing the act but are interrupted. The first time her father interrupts them, and another time her period arrives. Adam insists that she needs to "satisfy" him since she has made him need her. It isn’t specified as to what Kristina does for Adam, but afterward Kristina feels used, and Adam is satisfied. At this point, Kristina still considers herself a virgin.

When Kristina bumps into Chase at the mall, the two go to his car, snort meth and make out. A park ranger's attention prevents them from doing more than that. Chase gives her the drug Ecstasy on her 17th birthday, and the two have sex. Later she mentions making love to him in his car.

While making out with her on their first date, Brendan talks about being hot. He unbuttons Kristina's shirt and tells her not to say no. She gets him to stop by telling him she has her period.

Brendan doesn't believe her when she admits to being a virgin but eventually promises to forgive her if she lets him be "the first." Kristina isn't sure what she needs to be forgiven for. She ponders why taking a girl's virginity is so important to a guy.

Kristina's older sister is a lesbian. She talks to Kristina about her lover. Kristina's friend Trent is also a homosexual. Rachel, another meth addict, convinces Kristina to kiss her in public to get a reaction from the people around them. When Rachel learns of Brendan's rape, she recounts her own story of being lured out to the desert by a dealer who raped and abused her.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Crank is a collection of poems that detail Kristina's descent into drug addiction. Although the effects are initially pleasant to Kristina, the book graphically and poignantly discusses the toll methamphetamines make on a person's life.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


Ellen Hopkins






Record Label



Margaret E. McElderry books, a division of Simon and Schuster Children's Books


On Video

Year Published



Abraham Lincoln Book Award, 2009; Green Mountain Book Award, 2009; Soaring Wings Book Award, 2008-2009


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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