Showing posts with label ellen hopkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ellen hopkins. Show all posts

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...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rochester Teen Book Festival RECAP!

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I spent this past Saturday at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in lovely Rochester, NY.  (Twitter followers know it best because I totally GOT MY LIVE-TWEET ON.  Woo wooooooo!)

To say that I had a good time would be an understatement.  This was my first time at this event, and I will totally be there again next year.  WITH a bigger book bag.  Let's recap.

I showed up around 10am for the opening ceremony.  The festival was at Nazareth College, and the opener was in their big gym.  It basically turned into a giant pep rally for the authors, which was pretty cool.  They played a little "Truth or Talent" game, where each author had to come up to the microphone and share a truth, or a random talent.  Please enjoy this photo of Jay Asher impersonating seaweed while Alethea Kontis and Amber Lough sing along:

And Joelle Charbonneau singing opera:

Also, let it be noted that at this point, I realized that the only people older than me in the audience were probably parents who brought their teens, and the authors themselves.  (Even that is debatable though, there were a bunch of teen authors there...)  LOL.  #sorrynotsorry

After the pep rally, the breakout sessions began.  It was SO HARD to choose between sessions, since there were so many good ones, but here are the four I attended with a small recap of each:

1. Laurie Halse Anderson

Irreverent, funny, outspoken.  Those are the three words I wrote down after Anderson's talk.  She discussed many questions that people had about her books, but more importantly, she wasn't afraid to make impassioned statements about touchy subjects like feminism, racism, alcoholism, and sexual abuse.  This was a very empowering session, especially for the teens in the audience.  So awesome.

Laurie Halse Anderson and moi.  Wish I knew she was making a crazy face so I could have gotten in on the action.  NO FAIR, LAURIE.
*Also: at this session I met up with the illustrious Katie from Doing Dewey!  My first time meeting a blog friend in real life!  We attended a few sessions together throughout the day and had a great time connecting in person.  Also, you should all know that she apologizes profusely for getting her Bout of Books post up late.  I witnessed her contrition as she was trying to post it via her smartphone.  LOL.
Book bloggers unite!
2. Ellen Hopkins

Another wonderful session.  Hopkins started with a reading from her upcoming book, Rumble (excellent!), and then gave updates about her daughter (who the Crank trilogy is based upon).  Wow, what disheartening stuff.  Her daughter is in prison yet again, and pregnant with her seventh baby.  She's now been battling addiction for 18 years.  Hopkins has custody of her daughter's oldest son (now 17) and her three youngest children (ages 4, 5, and 10).  Many have accused her of exploiting her daughter's story for her books, but Hopkins said this is not just her daughter's story--it is her story, her husband's story, her grandchildrens' story, etc. and she feels it is important to share that in order to keep young readers away from this life.

Afterwards, she asked the teens in the audience to share some concerns that they are dealing with in their own lives.  I was blown away by some of the situations these kids shared.  Sickness, abuse, etc...there was a lot of strength in that room.  A very heavy session indeed.

3. Gina Damico

After two discussions that were pretty serious and issue-based, I needed something a little lighter.  I knew Gina Damico would be just the ticket, since I loved the humor in Croak.  Gina was friendly, funny, and down-to-earth.  You can tell she's newer to the publishing world than the previous two authors I visited, and I don't mean that in a bad way.  She had a more carefree attitude that I imagine was inspiring for the aspiring teen writers in the audience.  She talked about her road to authorship, and then took questions about the book.  Lots of laughs and overall a good session for fans of her work.

4. A.S. King and Andrew Smith

For my last sessions, I was really torn between this one, and Jay Asher's.  I decided to go here because I adored King's Ask The Passengers, and I hadn't read anything of Smith's yet, so I figured it would open me up to some new material.  I'm so glad I made this choice!  Kind and Smith based their session on the idea of boxes--that is, how NOT to use them.  They discussed how to avoid "boxing people in", by things like race, gender, sexuality, etc.  They also argued that the same should be done for books.  For example, they both expressed frustration about the fact that they've published books that have gay characters, and then those book are automatically grouped as "gay literature" when really, the main themes of those novels had little to do with sexuality.  They encouraged readers to go into any book with an open mind, regardless of the genre you've been told the book falls into.  Great advice for any reader!  I was really impressed by their session and ended up buying Andrew Smith's Winger at the book sale later.

After the breakouts, it was book signing time!  I had my big ol' bag with me, and spent the full two hours waiting in lines.  In the end, this was my haul:

All of the authors I met were incredibly nice.  I am very socially awkward at signings (please refer to the embarrassment of my Dennis Lehane signing), so I didn't say much, other than a "how are you?" and "thanks so much!".  They were all very gracious though, and Laurie Halse Anderson was especially chatty (her line was AGES long as a result, but worth it!!).  However, I did ask Andrew Smith for training tips for my half marathon (he's completed a whole bunch of marathons and runs every day).  He seemed happy to share, saying that 13.1 miles is nothing (I suppose that's true when you run 26.2!) and that I should just enjoy the run.  Points well taken.  Now when I start getting tired and whiny at mile 5, I'll just imagine Andrew Smith in my mind yelling, "THIS IS NOTHING!!"  (I'm sure that's exactly what he intended.)
A.S. King during signings
There you have it, reader friends!  My first major book event, and I loved every minute.  You know what one of the best parts of the day was?  Seeing all these teenagers who were TOTALLY STOKED about reading!  The teens in the audience asked all the best questions during every session.  I saw one girl break into tears when she met Jay Asher in person for the first time.  Neal Shusterman had a pack of groupies with him every time I saw him walking between sessions.  The book love was EVERYWHERE.  These kids give me hope for the future of the literary world.

So, who's coming with me next year??

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.
 
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