Showing posts with label addiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label addiction. Show all posts

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giveaway and BANNED! Book Review: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous


Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 14, 1971
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life. 

Read her diary. 

Enter her world.

You will never forget her. 


For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.


My Review:

That's right, it's one of my favorite literary weeks--BANNED BOOK WEEK!  During this event each year, Sheila at Book Journey hosts a little celebration on her blog, and this is the third year that I am participating.  It's a great excuse to explore the world of banned books and read some good ol' blacklisted literature.  You can check out my Banned Books Week reviews from the last two years here: Flowers for Algernon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  READ ALL THE BOOKS!


Alrighty, let's pipe down and review Go Ask Alice.  This book has been on my TBR for years--so many years that I finally added it to my "30 Before 35" list last year, in an effort to make sure I finally read it.  I thought the premise sounded interesting, especially because the diary was reportedly written by an actual anonymous teenager who suffered through a drug addiction.  This reminded me a lot of Crank by Ellen Hopkins (a fiction novel based on her daughter's real-life drug problems), and I was eager to get a different perspective on this issue.

However, pretty early in the book, I started to feel like something was a bit off.  Alice (the protagonist) was awfully preachy and introspective for someone with such a serious addiction.  On the days when she was sober, she was quick to reprimand herself for her behavior, and to explore the many moral ramifications of her actions.  This seemed unusual, given the tone of other addiction memoirs I have read.  At first, I chalked it up to the influences of a different era (this book is from 40 years ago, after all).  But then I was also a bit bothered because Alice's drug encounters always escalated so fast.  It was never just her getting high with her friends.  It was "I got high, and then I also got raped, and then suddenly I was selling LSD to 9-year-olds." 

I don't doubt that these types of things can happen when people truly sink into addiction, but for Alice, it was pretty constant to the point of feeling farfetched.

Finally, some Googling put this in a clearer perspective.  Apparently the author of Go Ask Alice isn't very anonymous at all--the author is Beatrice Sparks, who at the time of the book's release was a social worker and member of the Mormon faith (she has since passed away).  She was originally credited as just an "editor" of the book, but after some questions arose regarding the true identity of "Alice", it became clear that much of the book was written by Sparks herself.  Hence, preachy tone and conveniently trumped-up circumstances, meant to warn impressionable teens of the dangers of drugs.  (You can read more about the Sparks allegations here,)

After delving into that information, the often-banned status of Go Ask Alice became even more interesting to me.  Because first: why would parents and teachers want this book banned, if it's entire purpose is to warn teens away from drugs?  I suppose they're taking the abstinence approach--if we don't talk about drugs or sex or alcohol, then they'll just never do them!  (Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.)  And second: isn't it intriguing that this book was banned for drug/sex/etc references, when the REAL crime here is the authenticity of the writing?  It seems rather criminal to me that this is sold to teens as a real girl's diary, when in fact it is the work of a 40-something youth counselor.  Teens today are pretty savvy, and I'm guessing that many of them could see right through this writing.

Despite the crime against literary humanity that Sparks committed here, of course I (as always) feel that this book should not be banned.  There are other tales of drug addiction, written with more authenticity, that would be more likely to get through to modern-day teenagers.  However, the basic intent of this book (to show kids a "worst case scenario" for such behavior) is admirable, and if it keeps even a few teens away from these poor choices, then who can argue?

Have you read a banned book lately?  Check out the top 100 most banned books HERE.

Without further ado, it's GIVEAWAY TIME!  Let's celebrate banned books together!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win a copy of the banned book of your choice (from this list, limit of $15).  Giveaway is international, as I will be shipping through Book Depository.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Fallout by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Fallout (Crank trilogy #3)
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads: (SPOILERS from the first two books)

Hunter, Autumn, and Summer—three of Kristina Snow’s five children—live in different homes, with different guardians and different last names. They share only a predisposition for addiction and a host of troubled feelings toward the mother who barely knows them, a mother who has been riding with the monster, crank, for twenty years.
Hunter is nineteen, angry, getting by in college with a job at a radio station, a girlfriend he loves in the only way he knows how, and the occasional party. He's struggling to understand why his mother left him, when he unexpectedly meets his rapist father, and things get even more complicated. Autumn lives with her single aunt and alcoholic grandfather. When her aunt gets married, and the only family she’s ever known crumbles, Autumn’s compulsive habits lead her to drink. And the consequences of her decisions suggest that there’s more of Kristina in her than she’d like to believe. Summer doesn’t know about Hunter, Autumn, or their two youngest brothers, Donald and David. To her, family is only abuse at the hands of her father’s girlfriends and a slew of foster parents. Doubt and loneliness overwhelm her, and she, too, teeters on the edge of her mother’s notorious legacy. As each searches for real love and true family, they find themselves pulled toward the one person who links them together—Kristina, Bree, mother, addict. But it is in each other, and in themselves, that they find the trust, the courage, the hope to break the cycle.
Told in three voices and punctuated by news articles chronicling the family’s story, FALLOUT is the stunning conclusion to the trilogy begun by CRANK and GLASS, and a testament to the harsh reality that addiction is never just one person’s problem.

My Review:

As with any review of a second or third book in a trilogy, I shall warn you: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS from book #1 (Crank) and book #2 (Glass).  You can check out those reviews here and here.

Got that out of the way?  Good!  On to Fallout.

Fallout is quite different from the first two books in this trilogy.  I almost think of Crank and Glass as one big, long book, because they are both told from Kristina's perspective and have very little lag time in the time periods between the two novels.  However, Fallout is about 17 years removed from the second novel, and is told from three perspectives: those of Kristina's oldest kids, Hunter, Autumn, and Summer.  So, Fallout definitely stands out as a bit of a change-up in the trilogy.

In the beginning, I wasn't sure I liked this change in perspective.  After being so immersed in Kristina's POV for 2 books, I was feeling too disconnected reading from her children's view.  Also, the first two books, though technically fictional, were based on fact, whereas this book is entirely fictional (the real-life "Hunter" was only 13 when this was written, not 19 as he is in the novel).  I could feel that switch in authenticity just a bit, because at times, it felt like Hopkins was trying too hard to prove a point.  What I mean is: each child had very obvious ways that they were affected by Kristina's behavior.  Hunter had anger issues, Autumn had OCD and panic attacks, etc. and this laundry list of "typical" outcomes from being raised by an addict didn't seem to flow naturally within the plot.

However--as I got to know the three protagonists more and more, their individual histories started to blend a bit better.  I fell into their lives more easily.  By the end, each character felt like a well-rounded person, and not just a poster child for the effects of drug abuse.  Plus, Hopkins comes up with a pretty genius way to bring their stories together at the end, right alongside Kristina's, which tied things up nicely (even if their futures still seemed uncertain).

An added bonus is that the children's stories are interspersed with fictional news articles that catch you up on the lives of some of the side characters introduced in the first two books.  Adam from Crank, Brad and his kids from Glass, etc.  This was a nice addition to the central story.

Overall, despite my uncertain start, Fallout may have been the best of the three in this trilogy.  The changing perspectives allowed me to see the first two books in a bit of a different light, while also highlighting the tidal wave of ill effects that Kristina brought down upon her friends and family during her drug addiction.  Even though this book, of the three, is the most "fictional", I still find it sad that Hopkins wrote this often-depressing projection of the future based on the terrible battle that her own daughter is (still) facing with meth.

Just like with the first two books--I highly recommend this trilogy.  And if you read the first two, your experience is definitely not complete until you finish Fallout.

Readers, what's the best trilogy you've read lately?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Glass by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Glass (Crank trilogy #2)
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. And once it's got hold of you, this monster will never let you go.
Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.
Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby.
The sequel to Crank, this is the continuing story of Kristina and her descent back to hell. Told in verse, it's a harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.

My Review:

As with any review of a second or third book in a trilogy, I shall warn you: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS from book #1 (Crank).  You can check out my Crank review here.

Got that out of the way?  Good!  On to Glass.

This review won't be terribly long, because Glass is similar to Crank in so many ways.  It is told from Kristina's perspective again, in verse, but this time she's given birth to her son Hunter, and she's been clean for a while as a result.  She's trying hard to be a good mom and finish her high school education.  Unfortunately, that doesn't last long, as she gets reintroduced to drugs via crystal meth.  The results are, as you'd expect, disastrous.  And I'd say Kristina's descent into drug-fueled mayhem is about 1000 times worse this time around, because now there's an infant thrown into the mix.

The transition from Crank to Glass is so smooth, you'll feel like you've just continued reading the same book.  Kristina's voice is very similar, her drug-induced disasters reminding you of her past mistakes.  However, the big difference here is that in Glass, Kristina no longer struggles as much between her "Kristina" and "Bree" personas.  She has very nearly given herself over to "Bree" completely...or at least, Bree wins out much more easily than she ever did before.  There's a sense of hopelessness that is much deeper than what you'll experience in the first book.

As with Crank, Glass hits you that much harder when you realize that it's based on a true story--that of Ellen Hopkins' own daughter, Cristal.  When I went to the Rochester Teen Book Festival, Hopkins indicated that Crank is about 40% fact, based on her recreation of Cristal's slide into addiction.  However, Glass is even closer to the truth, as Hopkins was able to discuss this period of her daughter's life directly with Cristal in between prison sentences.  I won't tell you all the other updates she gave about Cristal's life (I'll save those for after the last book, so as not to spoil this one), but hers is a very upsetting story indeed.  Hopkins illustrates that sadness in great detail through this trilogy.

If Crank was good, I daresay Glass is better.  Not light reading by any means, but these are important books, especially for those struggling with addiction (or those who know an addict).  Stay tuned for book #3, Fallout...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Crank
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.


My Review:

OK, I'm going to start with three quick, random points before I get to the actual review.  First: this book is 537 pages long, and I devoured it in less than 24 hours.  (Reminder: stay a home mom. Two young kids. Barely enough time to tie my own shoes most days.)  IT'S THAT GOOD.

Second: this is a book about a girl who develops a meth addiction in Albuquerque.  What, exactly, is the deal with meth in Albuquerque?
Breaking Bad? Anybody?
Third: you may have guessed it...this is YA, another read from an author that will be at the Rochester Teen Book Festival.  I was especially excited to see Ellen Hopkins on the list, because I've heard buzz about her novels for years now.  However, this is the first one I've ever picked up.  And now I know that the hype is justified.

Crank is written from Kristina/Bree's perspective, in verse.  At first I wasn't sure about a book that was written as a poem, but I didn't have to be worried at all--the poetry is not lyrical or rhyming, so it's not like 500+ pages of singsong-type storytelling.  But the poetic structure is still essential, because it makes Kristina's story more...edgy, somehow.  It illustrates her journey in a way that regular ol' prose would not.  (Also explains my ability to read this in a day...short lines of verse, way easier to read than dense pages of paragraphs.)  Overall I think this was an awesome structural choice by Hopkins, and it definitely makes the book stand out in a crowd.

Aside from the poetic structure, Crank is powerful because Kristina's downward spiral into drug-fueled hell feels so disturbingly realistic.  (And sadly, that is likely because it is based on Hopkins' own daughter, who battled a terrible drug addiction for many years.)  Kristina is not an underprivileged girl, a troublemaker, promiscuous.  No, she is a straight-A do-gooder, no boyfriends to speak of, walking the straight and narrow.  And this makes her downfall that much more horrific.  It's like that saying about the traffic accident that you drive by and can't look away--that's what reading Crank feels like.

This book is raw, emotional, sad...and I'm already a third of the way through its sequel (Glass), with the third installment of the trilogy (Fallout) waiting on my nightstand.  DEVOUR THIS.
 
Imagination Designs