Study Guide

Crank Themes

By Ellen Hopkins

  • Lies and Deceit

    Just as it's certain that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, it's pretty much a given that teenagers are going to lie to their parents (not to mention a lot of other people). This is especially true if you're a teenager living life as a good girl by day and a drug dealer by night. Throughout Crank, we see Kristina lie to pretty much everyone she knows, including the cops, who aren't buying it. And the more her web of lies grows, the harder and more uncomfortable it is for her to keep everything in check.

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    1. Is there one particular act of deception that's responsible for Kristina's downfall? Or are several lies to blame? Explain your reasoning using evidence from the text.
    2. What drives Kristina's life of deception? Is it her drug addiction? Her desire to break free from her perfect daughter persona? What starts her lying, and what keeps her doing it?
    3. How do Kristina's lies affect her relationships with other people? Be specific, please.
    4. How is Kristina's sense of identity tied to her willingness to lie? How does Bree fit into this picture?

    Chew on This

    Kristina's decision to become Bree is the main cause of her drug addiction.

    Kristina's mother is partially responsible for Kristina's situation due to her decision to lie to herself about the changes in her daughter.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    Crank, toot, the white stuff, glass, the monster—how many names can a drug have? When you're imprisoned by addiction, it doesn't seem to matter what meth's called as long as you get your hands on it. Kristina may begin the story as a straight-A student and all around Miss Perfect, but it takes only one hit of meth to change all of that. If there's one thing Crank really drives home it's that desire for drugs can drive a person's action and completely alter their character. In Kristina's case, we also see how far someone can fall before realizing addiction has an iron grip on their lives.

    Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

    1. Look up some real life stories of people who have survived meth addiction. What do these stories have in common with Kristina's?
    2. If Kristina has no interest in drugs at the beginning of the book, why does she turn to them? What changes her mind?
    3. Crank devastates Kristina's life in a number of ways, affecting everything from he relationships to the way she thinks. Which of these effects do you think has the most severe impact?
    4. What do you think happens at the end of the book? Does Kristina give into the urge to get high again, or does she suppress it and go back in the house? Why do you think this? Turn to the text to support your claim.

    Chew on This

    Being away from her family's high standards and in the midst of her dad's shady lifestyle opens the door for Kristina to rebel by experimenting with drugs.

    Once Kristina's on the road to addiction, there's nothing anybody could possibly due to make her stop—not even being pregnant keeps her clean.

  • Foolishness

    There's a lot to learn from Kristina's story, but one thing Hopkins definitely want you to take away from reading Crank is that doing drugs is stupid. It can eat your brain alive and make quitting next to impossible, but it can also lead to a lot of external actions that can be just as dangerous. Kristina's relationship with the monster puts her in situations that can be really bad news, and while she seems to recognize that the things she's doing aren't exactly a good idea, that knowledge doesn't keep her from acting ridiculous and endangering herself and others.

    Questions About Foolishness

    1. How are the attitudes of other characters toward drug use damaging to Kristina? We're talking users and non-users alike.
    2. How does Kristina's drug use and interaction with people involved with it cause her to rewrite her views on life? What role does Bree play in this?
    3. What foolish activities and actions does drug use lead the characters to commit?
    4. What do you think Kristina's attitude is toward drugs at the end of the book? Does she recognize that her behavior was wrong? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Kristina may try drugs in an effort to liberate herself from her mom and stepdad's rigid expectations, but she quickly loses sight of this reason and becomes all about getting high for its own sake.

    In the end, thile Kristina may recognize the foolishness of her addiction, she's not entirely ready to completely give it up.

  • Sex

    Where there're drugs, there's lowered inhibitions, and where inhibitions are lowered, there's probably going to be sex. In Kristina's case in Crank, things get a little out of control when her connection to the monster leads her to three different guys, all of whom have different ideas about what a relationship means and how sex functions within it.

    While she begins the story not interested in relationships at all, Kristina's encounter with crank quickly introduces her to sexual activity as well, changing her life forever. Throughout the book, sex is not exactly synonymous with love, often acting as a tool for manipulation, drug acquisition, and even outright violence.

    Questions About Sex

    1. How do Adam and Lince change Kristina's attitude toward relationships and sex? Be specific, please.
    2. How do Adam, Brendan, and Chase differ in the ways they see sex? How does this impact Kristina? Give examples from the book to support your claim.
    3. How does the use of crank change and distort the meaning of sex for the characters? Are there any patterns you notice here?
    4. How do you think Kristina's experiences with sex will impact her future relationships? Why?

    Chew on This

    In the context of drug addiction, sex becomes a tool for power and control.

    Chase cares about Kristina's wellbeing even if he has some strange ways of showing it.

  • Choices

    To say that Kristina makes some bad decisions over the course of Crank is kind of an understatement. With one decision to try crank with Adam, she sets in motion a downward spiral of events that nearly destroy her and leave her future completely altered.

    But is she really making a continuous stream of bad decisions? Or has the drug changed her ability to think logically and see the situation for what it is? Throughout her story, Kristina gets a bunch of chances to reverse the course of events and turn away from her shady lifestyle, but her desire for the monster seems to overpower her ability to make good choices.

    Questions About Choices

    1. At what points in the book would it be easiest for Kristina to turn back from the path she puts herself on? Why does not do so in these moments? Or does she try to and fail? What does this tell you about her relationship to choice?
    2. What role does Bree play in the decisions Kristina makes? Could Kristina journey down the road she travels throughout the book without her? Explain your answer using evidence from the text.
    3. At the beginning of the book, Kristina doesn't have any real interest in drugs or sex. What factors change her mind?
    4. What is the significance of Kristina's decision to have her baby rather than get an abortion?

    Chew on This

    Bree is the vehicle that enables Kristina to behave in ways she otherwise wouldn't. In becoming Bree, Kristina tries to rid herself of responsibility for the decisions she makes.

    Kristina's choices are driven by desire, and her desire for crank is more powerful than her desire to change.

  • Innocence

    At the beginning of Crank, Kristina's your average high school student—quiet, an overachiever, not particularly interested in rocking the boat. Relationships? Forget about it. Breaking the rules? No way.

    So how does this innocent kid transform into a drug-using, sexually active delinquent who's a teen mom by the end of her story? In one word (or maybe two, in this case) it's a desire to rebel against her parents' high standards. In another, it's crank. Kristina's crazy journey with the monster takes her relative innocence, chews it up, and spits it out, leaving her disoriented and changed beyond her comprehension.

    Questions About Innocence

    1. When she first meets Adam, Kristina has no desire to get involved with him. What changes her mind?
    2. How do Kristina's various love interests take advantage of her inexperience? What are the consequences?
    3. How does returning home to Reno jar Kristina's sense of how much she's changed?
    4. How do Kristina's experiences with Adam, Brendan, and Chase test some of her previous assumptions about romance?

    Chew on This

    Kristina's feelings of being out of place when she returns home only fuel her desire for drugs and relationships.

    Kristina's innocence proves to be a crucial factor in her downward spiral—once she gets on this ride, she has absolutely no clue how to get off.

  • Exploration

    Being a teenager commonly brings a time of exploration with it, but when you're seventeen and heavily involved with the crank scene in a city, things tend to get kicked up a notch. While Kristina's obviously aware of the dangers involved with having sex, mixing different types of substances, and getting involved with the drug dealing scene, consequences don't seem to matter in comparison to her desire to live life in the fast lane. Taking risks, no matter how unsafe, becomes a way of life for Kristina as crank takes over her existence. Unfortunately in Crank, exploration comes at a high price.

    Questions About Exploration

    1. If Kristina knows the health and legal ramifications of her drug use, why does she keep doing it?
    2. What is Kristina trying to escape through her use of crank? Why do drugs seem to provide the way out?
    3. What's Robyn's role in Kristina's flirtation with drugs?
    4. Does Kristina's pregnancy ultimately provide closure to her period of exploration? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Drug exploration provides a convenient way for Kristina to avoid exploring her family's troubled past and who she wants to be going forward.

    Kristina chooses to ignore the consequences of her actions in favor of getting lost in the fast life of drug use.

  • Family

    Take one aspiring novelist with a selfish streak, toss in an ultra-stern stepfather, mix in a lesbian daughter, a rebellious middle child, an oblivious stepson, and throw them all together in the 1990s, and you definitely don't get the Brady Bunch.

    In Crank, Kristina's family is packed with drama—and that's even before her drug use arrives on the scene. These people have severe problems just talking to each other, and as a result, emotions and problems get pushed below the surface rather than dealt with directly. Perhaps if there's anything good that comes from Kristina's problems, it's that it forces her family to talk about her problems a bit, as well as the ones they've gone to great lengths to cover up.

    Questions About Family

    1. Clearly, Kristina's dad is a creep. So why does she defend him against her mom? Why does she even want to go stay with him to begin with? Use the text for evidence.
    2. Describe Kristina's relationship with her mom. What repels her against wanting to tell her the truth about her drug use? What makes her want to tell her the truth?
    3. Is Marie a good mom? What are her strong points? What are her weak points? Turn to the text for support.
    4. How do you think Kristina's addiction will affect the way the family communicates in the future? Why? How will Hunter's presence change the dynamic in their household?

    Chew on This

    Kristina goes to Albuquerque not out of love for her dad, but as a passive aggressive action against her mom.

    Marie doesn't directly address Kristina's apparent problems because it would mean acknowledging her failures as a wife and mother.

  • Identity

    You'd be hard pressed to find a teenager who knows exactly who she is, and Kristina is no exception in Crank. With pressures from school, family, and herself assaulting her every day, the questions of what really makes up her identity and whose rules she should play by overwhelm her prior to meeting the monster.

    Ultimately, Kristina chooses the rulebook of Bree, her rebellious alter ego who gives her the confidence and recklessness needed to abandon her good-girl way of life. Bree may redefine Kristina's persona, but the move to become another person probably has a lot of sources that cause her to take over.

    Questions About Identity

    1. Where does Bree come from? According to Kristina, does she suddenly materialize on the trip to Albuquerque or has she always been there?
    2. How are Bree and Kristina alike and different? What positive and negative traits does Bree possess?
    3. What is the source of Kristina's fragmented identity? What areas of her life have caused her to be unhappy with herself? Be specific.
    4. Compare Kristina at the beginning of the book to Kristina at the end. What things are important to her? What are her aspirations? How does her struggle with crank change her? Are there things about her the stay the same? If so, what? If not, what does this mean about her identity?

    Chew on This

    While a painful experience, Kristina's drug addiction ultimately helps her to face issues in her life that have harmed her sense of identity.

    Bree is a product of Kristina's anger and frustration toward her family's fragmented situation.

  • Abandonment

    Kristina's drug use looms so large in <em>Crank</em> that we almost forget about another major problem that shapes her character: She's a neglected child. Abandoned by her father and pushed aside by her mom at the start of her second marriage, there's been a serious dearth of dependable adults in this girl's life. Things are just made worse by the fact that when the adults in her life are present, they're more concerned about meeting their own needs than caring about what's going on in her life. Girl has a gaping emotional hole—it's no wonder she tries to fill it.

    Questions About Abandonment

    1. How does Scott change the dynamic between Kristina and her mom? Be specific, please.
    2. How would you describe Kristina's dad's attitude toward her? How does this play a role in her decision to start using drugs?
    3. Is Kristina's mom aware of the emotional damage she's caused Kristina? If so, what brings her to this realization? If not, what does this mean for Kristina?
    4. Is Kristina's mother or father more to blame for her problems? Why? Defend your claim with evidence from the book.

    Chew on This

    Kristina and her dad have mutually unrealistic views of each other that play a major role in setting the book's events in motion.

    Kristina's distance causes Marie to feel remorse and acknowledge her neglect of her daughter.