Study Guide

Crank

By Ellen Hopkins

Crank Introduction

Whether it's Candy Crush Saga, Star Trek reruns, or checking Instagram to see what your friends are doing, we all have guilty pleasures that eat into our time. But what if your time suck wasn't so innocent, and instead had the power to destroy your finances, your mind, and even your future? Would you be strong enough to kick the habit? Or would you allow it to destroy you?

When it comes to meth addiction, it's often not as simple as quitting or staying the course—just ask Kristina Snow, protagonist of Ellen Hopkins's 2004 novel Crank. In the course of one summer, Kristina goes from straight-laced honors student to slave to crystal meth, a.k.a. crank. She starts out in charge, but before she knows it, meth is running the show.

All it takes is a court-ordered visit to see her estranged father to send her down a road that forever alters the course of her life. Kristina finds herself in all kinds of situations she never could have predicted, from losing her virginity in exchange for drugs to dating two pretty shady characters at once to becoming a crank dealer herself. Whoa—talk about a loss of innocence in hyper-drive.

If this all sounds too bad to be true, though, it isn't. A lot of Crank is actually based on the true story of Hopkins's own daughter's struggle with addiction to crystal meth. Like Kristina, her daughter's addiction began with a visit meant to reconnect her with her father, but instead she came home a completely different person, her family powerless to stop her downward slide. Feeling her daughter's story could be valuable to other teens, Hopkins began writing Crank, followed by two additional books about Kristina, Glass and Fallout.

Despite its dark roots in reality, Crank is an example of a bad experience transforming into something positive that helps others. The book has spoken to thousands of young, struggling readers, won numerous awards, and consistently appears on recommended reading lists for high school students. Still, that doesn't mean everyone's a fan—the book is also frequently banned for its raw, honest portrayal of teen sex and drug use. So whether you're craving a cautionary tale or looking to rebel, this book just might cure what ails you.

What is Crank About and Why Should I Care?

Ever sit through a drug education class or assembly at school and feel like it's a waste of your time? Sure, you were probably glad to get out of class for a couple of periods, but as the teacher droned on, you may have found yourself thinking that you didn't need to learn about drugs at all—after all, you would never allow yourself to get wrapped up in something so dangerous.

Here's the thing: If you were to go back in time and tell Kristina that she would soon be blowing her bank account, having promiscuous sex, and fraternizing with the Mexican Mafia to fulfill her crank cravings, she probably would laugh in your face. After all, Crank's protagonist is a talented young woman from a solidly middle class family, with a lot of potential, dreams, and ambitions—well, until she encounters crank. One bad decision made on a whim, and life as she knows it is over.

A key point to Hopkins's novel is that awareness of the destruction drug abuse carries can safeguard you and other teens from heading down a dangerous path that could cost you your future. Addiction can touch anyone, leaving devastation in its wake—and when it comes down to it, nobody's immune. So read on.

Crank Resources

Websites

Welcome Home
To Hopkins's homepage, that is. Check out her site dedicated to young adults—it's brimming with information, including book trailers and a fan page and more.

Drug Free World
More information about crystal meth addiction, symptoms, and real stories from users. It's hard to learn about, but there's a lot of information here if you want or need it.

RAINN
If you or someone you know needs helps navigating sexual violence, this link can help you get the support and help you need.

Articles and Interviews

"Taking a Closer Look: Ellen Hopkins and Her Novels"
Rebecca Hill of the educational journal ALAN Review talks with Hopkins about the risks teens face today, the importance of truth in fiction, and her foray into writing adult fiction.

"Channeling the Voice of Youth: An Interview with Ellen Hopkins"
Hopkins opens up to Women on Writing about getting to know her characters during the writing process, adapting her family's painful experiences with addiction into a book, and advice for aspiring writers.

Ellen Hopkins: "Experiment with All Types of Poetry"
Maybe you enjoyed the story of Crank, but when it comes to writing, poetry is more your bag. If this is the case, check out Hopkins's tips for poetry writing in this interview.

Video

Where Do Words Come From?
Watch Ellen Hopkins talk about the creation of Crank and her inspiration as a writer.

Crank Book Trailer
Check out this student-made video for Crank. Is this how you picture things going for Kristina?

Images

Crank Book Cover
Check out this cover of Crank. The emphasis is really on the drugs for this one…

A Cover from Another Mother
Okay, not exactly—more like different cover designer. But you catch our drift. Check out this other version of our book's cover.