I have had a student in my class for the last two years who is one of the sweetest and sunniest girls that I've ever taught, and she loves dark books, the darker the better. She read Crank last year, and loved it. This set off a small crisis when she lent it to other seventh graders, and their parents didn't approve. This is where one would expect my story to end in letters to the school board and angry tirades. It doesn't.
The original reader's mom knew what she was reading, and the three of us had discussed the subject matter. When the girl lent the book to a boy in class, his mother found it and didn't want him to read it, but there was no controversy. The mom simply returned the book to its owner. I didn't even hear about this part of the story until months later.
I did know that something was up (teachers almost always do), and I told all my students that when it comes to edgier books, like Crank, they can't pass on their personal copies without talking to their parents. This isn't a perfect solution, but it works for my classroom and for our community. If a student wants to read something that I can't or won't provide, then they have to go through mom or dad to get to the bookstore or the public library. Parents also ask me what I think of particular titles, and I give them my honest opinion, based on either my own reading or the reviews that I've seen from other teachers and librarians. Most parents are grateful to me since it means they don't have to read "all those vampire books", and the trust that we build up allows me to keep a wider range of titles in my classroom.
I finally read Crank myself during Banned Books Week this year (I might not have it available in my classroom library, but I can let the students see me reading it!), and this is another book that every student and parent should read at some point. Very few of us these days get through our lives without being touched by addiction, and Crank is an eye-opening look at just how easy it is to make one wrong choice, and how quickly that choice can take over a life. I have had students tell me they loved this book, but also wish they hadn't read it because the book is so sad. I understand where they're coming from, yet I believe these same students will also think twice before casually trying a drug like crank. It's one thing to know that something is bad from a public service announcement or a school assembly, and it's another thing entirely to have read Kristina's story.
Told entirely in verse from the perspective of Kristina, a bright high school student, Crank details how a visit to her drug addict father introduces Kristina to the monster: crank. Despite a loving and involved mother and stepfather, Kristina can't shake the monster, and her life unravels.
Ellen Hopkins is a talented writer, and she writes important books that teens and their parents should read. As she writes in her author's note: "Crank is, indeed, a monster—one that is tough to leave behind once you invite it into your life. Think twice. Then think again." This book will make you do exactly that.
Edition I Read: Paperback
Where/How I got it: Borders
Total Books Read in 2010: 147
Will I Make This Available to my Students?: No, but I would have when I taught high school.
Other Books Read but not Reviewed: 0