Study Guide

Crank Drugs and Alcohol

By Ellen Hopkins

Drugs and Alcohol

My mom gave a detailed run-down of his varied bad habits.

[…]

I promised. Swore. Crossed my heart. Recited the DARE pledge verbatim. (My Mom Will Tell You.9-11)

If you want proof that Kristina didn't go to Albuquerque intending to get hooked on drugs, here it is. She went through all the right anti-drug classes and learned all the right pledges, and yet it still happened.

In school, I was never confronted with drugs, surely never sought them out. But I wasn't exactly clueless. As I watched, one thing became obvious. Where the party went, my dad followed. (I Even Spent Time at the Bowling Alley.5)

There's no getting around the fact that Kristina's dad is largely to blame for her introduction to the monster. He's the one standing between her previous life, in which she's not particularly interested in drugs, and her decision to become part of the party.

Been smoking pot since I was 13, couldn't quit if I tried. Besides, why try? It keeps me happy, mellow. Makes me eat too much, but oh well. (He Hadn't Changed At All.2)

Kristina's dad's description of his various bad habits does a nice job of showing how impressionable kids left to their own devices can become lifelong followers of drugs. We don't know much about his side of Kristina's family, but it's probably safe to say that his dad was unavailable in much the same way he was for his daughter.

Two days, two nights, no sleep, no food, come down off the monster, you crash real hard. (Until You Crash.1-2)

Maybe you've never thought about it before, but drugs are really hard on your body. It's our guess that if you deliberately chose not to sleep or eat for two days, you'd be pretty freaking miserable.

You know how you stand and stand and stand in line for the most gigantic incredible roller coaster you've ever dared attempt […] Cresting the top, time moves into overtime as you wait for that scant hesitation just before you drop, knowing you can't turn back. You know how you feel at that instant? Well, that's exactly how it feels when you shake hands with the monster. (Just Before the Drop.1-5)

We'd like to tweak Kristina's roller coaster metaphor just a bit. Shaking hands with the monster is like getting on the roller coaster without a safety harness and completely destroying your mind in the process.

Burned out, adrift on a sea of uncertain synapses, a place where your eyes refuse to refocus and your brain refuses to function.

[…]

Everything shut down, cerebral ghost town. I fell into deep sleep. Deep, dream-free sleep. (Used Up.1, 3)

There's some seriously poetic language here—the phrase "cerebral ghost town" paints the burned-out mind of someone on drugs as something haunted and abandoned. Even if readers haven't experienced addiction, the tone of this passage helps us understand the emotional state of someone who has.

I considered the Reno crank scene, or what I knew of it. Legit entertainment—music, magic, comedy clubs. Legit and semi-legit—gaming, sports betting, late night carousing. Legal, semi-immoral—adult revues (aka "titty clubs"), gay clubs, strip clubs, swap clubs, beyond-the-city-limits prostitution. Such activities, 24-7, practically invited the monster's participation. (I Considered.1-6)

This is where the book's setting plays a pretty important role—living close by a city where shady activities go down on an hourly basis only makes it easier for Kristina to dive further into her obsession with the monster.

I mean, I'd thought about the monster, dreamed about the monster, lusted for the monster, regretted knowing the monster, but I hadn't touched the monster in over a month.

Hadn't even seen it.

Thought I might be over it. Was it still alive in me?

Could it still have such a solid hold on me? (Did It Show.1-4)

The fact that Kristina can be away from meth for a month but still feel an extreme desire for it shows the dangerous hold the drug can have on users. Even after only using it a couple of times, it's impossible to escape.

You know how waking up to perfect skies, enough sunshine to warm you, not enough to bake you, or watching a silent fall of quarter-sized snowflakes gives you delicious shivers of pleasure? Somewhere on my stroll with the monster, I'd lost these things. (Problem Number Four: Feeling Good.5-7)

This has got to be one of the saddest lines in a book full of really dark moments. Imagine having the joy and admiration you feel at small things in life totally sucked out of you to the point where you can no long take pleasure in them at all. That's what addiction does to Kristina.

Crank is more than a drug. It's a way of life. You can turn your back. But you can never really walk away. (Happy Endings.5)

Even after surviving her pregnancy and embracing her role as a parent, Kristina still doesn't discount the fact that crank isn't something she can easily leave behind. Here, she seems to acknowledge that it's going to take a lot more than having a baby for her to no longer feel its presence in her life.

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