One of my students once told me that she liked the books she had been reading because they explained exactly what it was adults had been warning her about. Concerned adults can present information to young adults about things that might hurt them on their journey to adulthood and those young people may still wonder what exactly it is the adults are talking about. With a book like Crank, Ellen Hopkins’ fictionalized account of her own daughter’s descent into crank addiction, readers feel what addiction is as surely as they feel what something rotten in the stomach feels like. They will be able to recognize the monster whether it is a snake in the grass or it is rearing up its ugly head.
Hopkins’ books are all written in verse, arranged in different shapes on each page–the effect is as much a physical experience as a literary one and adds greatly to the impact. She tackles the most difficult subjects: abuse, suicide, addiction, and prostitution. Many teenage girls say that Ellen Hopkins speaks to and for them. But her books are disturbing, with an end effect of strengthening a commitment to a positive life.
Crank is followed by Glass which chronicles a further slide into addiction as the teenage girl, Bree, moves into adulthood. The third book in this series, the recently published Fallout tells the story of Bree’s children as they grow into adulthood. These are definitely books that adults would be interested in reading: for parents already close to their teenage children, these books will offer material for discussion; for parents drifting away from their maturing children, these books will inspire them to regain contact.