83 pages 2 hours read

Ellen Hopkins


Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | YA | Published in 2004

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Summary and Study Guide


The first novel of Ellen Hopkins’s Crank trilogy, Crank (2004) tells the story of how one summer using the drug crystal meth changes the course of protagonist Kristina Snow’s life. Written in hypnotic, broken verse, the YA novel is loosely based on the addiction struggles of Hopkins’s own daughter. The novel uses minimal words and granular details to immerse the reader in the psyche of a teenager dealing with drug addiction. Honors student Kristina is only 16 when she first uses meth, a drug she dubs “the monster,” showing that addiction can strike any person or family. Filled with visceral descriptions and strong language, the book has invited praise and censure in equal measure. A New York Times bestseller, Crank has also regularly featured on banned-book lists because of its depictions of addiction and sex.

At the end of Crank, Kristina is at a crossroads in her life, but her struggles with addiction continue. Hopkins believes this is a clear-eyed and honest portrayal of addiction, which rarely offers neat resolutions. Since the Crank trilogy, Hopkins has become a powerful advocate for youths and families dealing with addiction. Hopkins lives and writes in Reno, Nevada.

This study guide references the First Simon Pulse Edition, New York, 2004.

Content Warning: The source material features detailed descriptions of drug use, substance use disorder, abortion, sexual violence, and rape.

Plot Summary

Straight-A student Kristina Georgia Snow lives in Reno, Nevada, with her mother, Marie; her stepfather, Scott; and her younger brother, Jake. Kristina’s older sister, Leigh, is in college. The summer before her junior year of high school, Kristina goes to Albuquerque to see her father for the first time in eight years. (Her father is not named in the book.) When she arrives in Albuquerque, Kristina feels disenchanted by her father’s habits and lifestyle. He uses drugs and does not spend time with Kristina, often leaving her alone in his shabby apartment. Bored and lonely, Kristina bonds with Adam, her father’s handsome teenage neighbor, who also uses drugs. Adam introduces Kristina to cigarettes and crystal meth. As the summer progresses, Kristina falls in love with Adam and develops an addiction to meth. Kristina labels meth “the monster.” Before Kristina leaves Albuquerque, Adam tattoos a heart on her thigh as a token of their romance.

Back in Reno, Kristina feels alienated from her mother, the rest of her family, and her old friends. She misses Adam and drugs. At Scott’s company picnic at a water park, Kristina flirts with two guys, a lifeguard called Brendan and high school senior Chase Wagner. Meanwhile, Marie discovers Kristina’s infected tattoo and grounds her. Kristina begins to resent Marie. During an outing to a mall, Kristina runs into Chase and then Brendan. She manages to score meth through each of them. In a shocking turn of events, Brendan rapes Kristina after getting her an eighth of an ounce of meth. Kristina does not tell her parents about the rape but confides in Chase.

To maintain a supply of meth, Kristina makes new connections, such as cheerleader Robyn. Kristina neglects her studies and hangs out only with the other high schoolers who use drugs. Her family suspects she is using substances, but Kristina denies it. On the night of her 17th birthday party, Kristina experiments with multiple drugs and violates her curfew. She is grounded again. She sneaks out of her house, is discovered by a policeman, and is remanded to juvenile detention. There, Kristina connects with someone who is part of a drug syndicate. Kristina’s parents bail her out. Kristina contacts the drug syndicate and becomes a dealer. Kristina feels like she can finally relax now that she has continuous access to money and meth.

Things take a dramatic turn when Kristina realizes she is pregnant. Worse, the father is not Chase, whom she loves, but Brendan. Kristina plans to terminate the pregnancy but backs out at the last minute. Chase offers to marry her. Kristina suggests he go to college instead.

Kristina ends up telling Marie and Scott about the pregnancy. They agree to help her as long as she continues with school. Kristina mostly stays away from meth during her pregnancy, graduates her junior year, and gives birth to a son, whom she names Hunter. At the end of the book, Kristina tells the reader there is no neat, happy ending to her story. She loves Hunter but also misses regular life as a carefree 17-year-old. The addiction to meth is a constant fight in her life. Some days she wins, but others, like today, she feels the craving particularly strongly.