Ellen Hopkins draws on her own personal demons and those of her daughter to produce a semi-autobiographical book that is both disturbing and frightening. It tells the story of Kristina and her dangerous journey in life and her use and addiction to Crystal Meth (crank in this book). Her father, a no-good loser, introduces Kristina to crank, and thus sets her up for a downward spiral of depravity and desperation.
Kristina, while using crank, has an alter-ego. She becomes Bree, a sexy character who uses her new found sexual power to lure in boys who will supply her with more crank – this alter-ego stoops to lows that Kristina would not to get what she wants and desires.
As he spirals ever downward losing her desire to do well at school, changing her relationship with her family, she seems trapped. Her obsession with crank is a dangerous one that threatens her sanity and at times her life. Eventually, the addiction and depravity leads her into a situation where she is brutally abused and raped; she becomes pregnant and suddenly there is a brief glimpse of life as she perhaps sees the road to salvation. The salvation isn’t a clean and sober one, but it’s a start . . .
Firstly, this book is not suitable for anyone under the age of eighteen, and many adults will struggle to read it. It is very vivid and very tough to read. Written in poetry and constructed in such a way that the ‘shape’ of the poetry, and the rhythm make the words flow off the page and transport you into a very sordid world.
It does not hold back any punches as you follow an eight your old girl from innocence into the depths of pure sanity and madness that is caused by Crystal Meth addiction. It delves into this loss of innocence and how it leads into a directionless life without any hope or future. You can feel the desperation of Kristina as she spirals into addiction and you really get a sense of loss and powerlessness that is incredibly tangible as you read.
You begin to feel the desperation of the mother as you read and you can feel the anger, the betrayal, the fear and the loss of a parent as they feel helpless and confused. The pain of both the mother and daughter are very real, and will touch you deeply. The writing amazingly conveys the helplessness of Kristina, especially when she begins to recover; it’s a lost and forlorn feeling that tells of a lifetime of battles to come against inner demons!
The poetry is an amazing tool used to create an atmosphere and depravity that may not have come through in a novel; somehow the pace, the shape and the content meld together to portray the feelings and desperation in a unique and often compelling way.
You find yourself on a journey with Katrina, following her into the depths of hell and out again, but never quite healing or recovering. You get an inner look at a Meth addict and understand somewhat why she abuses herself and why the drug becomes both a killer and a comfort to her. In a strange way it does provide some positives of drug use, it never condones drug use, and never suggests you use drugs, but it portrays why Kristina feels the need for the drug and how it does somehow hold her together while all else falls apart.
Overall this is a haunting and powerful book that will really make you think hard about why people become addicts and will perhaps make you a little less judgmental, and even give you a little understanding. It is compelling, and shows a different life, one that could have been so good, but for a few strange circumstances that have led someone astray – it makes you realize that but for the grace of God it could happen to anyone.
It’s hard, powerful but well worth the read; it’s the kind of book that you want to put down, but simply can’t – it draws you in and holds you until the very last word.