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From Holden Caulfield to Hazel Lancaster, literature is packed with troubled teenage characters. While we here at Shmoop don't mean to minimize the struggles of her fictional compatriots, few young adult protagonists descend into darkness the way Kristina does on her journey through addiction. Her story may be bleak, but it's important to remember that Kristina does what many addicts aren't able to: She survives. While she admits to being the sole author of her destruction, she's also a smart, determined person whose best qualities are what ultimately help her escape.
When we first meet her, Kristina's pretty much your typical, type-A, straight-A overachiever. Because the book's written in poetry, we're often deprived of a lot of the details that would be revealed in the well fleshed-out paragraphs of a more traditional novel, but we can grasp from what's given here that her situation at school and at home isn't great. It might look great on the surface, but there's a pretty big mess underneath.
For one thing, her stepfather, Scott, sets the bar way too high—Kristina describes him as "stern and heavy handed, with unattainable expectations" (Alone.3). The way she describes herself also reveals that high standards are a big source of her problem: "Alone," she says, "there is no perfect daughter, no gifted high-school junior" (Alone.7). Clearly Kristina's life is defined by academics and the role of perfection that she's crafted so well—away from these external standards, though, she's lost. Her visit to her dad, then, coincides with Kristina generally reaching a breaking point.
The other thing about Kristina pre-monster is that she's pretty much the picture of innocence and morality. Remember Sandy in Grease before Rizzo and the gang get ahold of her and transform her into exactly what Danny Zuko wants her to be? That's kind of what we're dealing with here. "I'd never been touched by a boy," she tells us when she first meets Adam. "I'd never even said hello to such a complete stranger. Didn't want his smoke making me gag, making me want to taste something so gross" (She Went Inside.4-5). She's the model of innocence.
Here's the thing, though—persuaded by Adam's irresistible bad boy charm, she begins to loosen her grip. And that, brothers and sisters in Shmoop, is where Bree comes in.
While it sure sounds like Kristina has multiple personality disorder, she's pretty quick to correct our suspicions. Bree may not be an imaginary friend or a hallucination, but she is the person Kristina becomes when she wants to be braver or stronger in situations that are too overwhelming. Where mild mannered Clark Kent must become Superman to save the world, good-girl Kristina must transform into Bree to do things that lie outside the perfect daughter matrix Scott and her mom want her in.
However, Kristina is hardly saving the world when she lets Bree take over. Usually she's getting ready to do something destructive—like get high, have sex, party, or lie to the cops. "Before Bree," she explains, "that never would have happened. Whatever she'd done to me, for me, and basically in spite of me, she'd given me a whole new sense of self" (Before Bree.1-2). Bree, in other words, is the anti-Kristina—someone unrecognizable to the dutiful daughter and perfect student.
Usually, it's a good thing when quiet teenagers like Kristina gain new self-confidence. In the case of Bree, though, that's not quite true since the stuff she does while wearing her Bree hat isn't exactly positive. Which makes us here at Shmoop present the following theory: Could it be that Kristina has to become Bree to cope with guilt she feels about doing things she knows are wrong?
Think about the part where Kristina starts hanging out on the Avenue at school. "I did insist on one thing," she says. "Out there on the Avenue, everyone called me Bree" (The Next Few Days.4). Doing drug related activities on school property majorly goes against Kristina's previous tendency to stay in line with rules, so much so that she has to become someone else in order to make it acceptable to her conscience. She has to quiet her old self in order to be her new, wild self.
By the end of Crank, we've seen Kristina transform from your average, straight-laced high school teen to a drug addict, dealer, and ultimately, a candidate for Teen Mom. It's a pretty harrowing story, but where does all this change leave her in the final pages?
For one thing, nearly getting an abortion makes her think about someone else's needs as opposed to her own—instead of doing what's more convenient for her, she takes the flutter in her stomach as "a plea from the life growing viable inside me" (Mesmerized.7). This is not only a major life-changing decision, but a sign that Kristina's ready to put aside satisfying her own desires—which is what guides her up until now—in order to make an ethical decision.
This newfound sense of selflessness also applies to the way Kristina deals with her addiction following her pregnancy and the whirlwind events of the previous months. She tells us that she comes to the point of "discovering how very much it [her addiction] applied to my 'me first' psyche'," as well as disciplining herself "not to give in to inner voices much stronger than my own" (The #1 Worst Thing.4-5). Since one of those strong inner voices definitely belongs to Bree, the ending finds Kristina ready to silence her alter-ego's voice and become herself again.
One question still remains, though: Will Kristina use crank again? Or has she truly put those days behind her? For more on this burning issue, check out the "What's Up with the Ending" section.