module 13

Module 14: Crank


Hopkins, E. (2004). Crank. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books


Crank is the haunting tale of a young teenage girl named Kristina. She goes to visit her father that has been estranged to her in years and falls into a life of drugs and young love. She calls her desire for “crank” or speed the monster and addresses her alter-ego, Bree who tells her to do drugs, flirt with boys, and smoke cigarettes. Upon meeting her father, who she has idealized for years, she is immediately let down. Thus begins her summer of flirting with temptation, doing drugs under her dad’s supervision, and dating a boy who is currently seeing another girl. She toys with sex, with drugs, and dangerous situations. She describes the highs as well as the lows that are involved with her building addiction. She then travels back home at the end of the summer and is forced to adjust to adjust to real life. She does not succeed and continues to feed her addiction.

This spiral leads to more self-doubt, drugs, and sex. She soon finds that she is pregnant and goes through waves of decisions to abort, adopt, or keep her child. In the end, she decides to keep her child but finds that she cannot be the mother she wanted to be. In the end, the monster calls to her and takes her away from her child.


Written in verse, this book is powerful. Every sentence has an impact, ever feeling is felt. It is a wonderful book to really emphasize the struggle that is a result of addiction. It explains in non-romantic terms how once it takes hold it never lets go. Even in the face of love and commitment to reform, the monster is always present and can never be escaped. As with some drug stories, I find that the stories romanticize drugs until they go wrong. This book does no such thing. From the beginning its a struggle, from the beginning it is not appealing. This is important in the establishment of how people get hooked on drugs. It as well does a wonderful job at establishing the mental addiction that comes with drug addiction. Kristina is no longer herself, she is Bree and Bree controls her decisions when it comes to drugs. Kristina may not approve of what is happening but she is not in control any longer and the split-personality helps establish that lack of control. The ending is heartbreaking, as Kristina gives birth to a child that is not specifically said to have birth defects, but it is implied that some issues exist that make it more difficult. Bree then takes over, as she does, and leads to Kristina leaving her child with her mother as she is not capable of loving him as much as she wants and her addiction is too strong.

What really hits the emotional nerve is the author’s note that explains that this story is loosely based on the author’s daughter, whose child is now 7 years old and in the loving care of the author.

Professional Reviews

Like the teenage crack user in the film Traffic, the young addict in this wrenching, cautionary debut lives in a comfortable, advantaged home with caring parents. Sixteen-year-old Kristina first tries crank, or crystal meth, while visiting her long-estranged father, a crank junkie. Bree is Kristina’s imagined, bolder self, who flirts outrageously and gets high without remorse, and when Kristina returns to her mother and family in Reno, it’s Bree who makes connections with edgy guys and other crank users that escalate into full-blown addiction and heartrending consequences. Hopkins tells Kristina’s story in experimental verse. A few overreaching lines seem out of step with character voices: a boyfriend, for example, tells Kristina that he’d like to wait for sex until she is “free from dreams of yesterday.” But Hopkins uses the spare, fragmented style to powerful effect, heightening the emotional impact of dialogues, inner monologues, and devastating scenes, including a brutal date rape. Readers won’t soon forget smart, sardonic Kristina; her chilling descent into addiction; or the author’s note, which references her own daughter’s struggle with “the monster.”

Engberg, E.  (2004). [Review of Crank]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

While roaming the aisles of a bookstore in 2005, I discovered Crank. The stark white drug slang title on a black background immediately appealed to my curiosity. After reading the author’s note about the story being loosely based on her daughter’s drug addiction, I thumbed through the pages and was surprised to find the narrative told in poetic form. I knew this book was going to be a hit with teens not only because of the edgy topic, but because the unique format is entertaining as well as non-threatening. The lure of wanting to know what happened to a quasi-real character is compelling. With her story Hopkins had a captivated audience.

Crank is unique, and Hopkins has created a winning formula for her book’s success: interesting subject matter, personal experience, and narrative poetry that flows and is easy to comprehend. This book is fluent in teen speak and directly addresses uncomfortable, but important issues. Due to the mature subject matter of the book my and the publisher’s age recommendation is 14-up. (Margaret K. McElderry, 2004. ISBN: 9780689865190)

Kendall, J. (2004). Teen Book Review: Crank. Children’s Books. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This is the perfect book to lead a discussion with teenagers about addiction, about people they may know with addiction, and the undeniable consequences of addition. It is important for teenagers to feel the consequences as opposed to just learning about the issues that come with drug use, as this book does very well. This book is all about feelings and emotions that follow drugs use. It is a great book to recommend to readers who love beautiful poetry and want to develop empathy for what a drug addict goes through.


Module 13: The Good Neighbors

 good neighbors

Black, H. (2008). The Good Neighbors. New York: Graphix


Rue’s mother is gone following a fight with her father. Her father has fallen into depression and is not going to work. Rue is going through the motions while trying to ignore the weird things she is seeing when her father is accused of murder. As Rue dives into the mystery, tries to find her mother, and prove her father’s innocence she uncovered a world for which she never knew she belongs to. The world of Faeries. Though she now understands her powers, she must decide if she wants to be in the faerie world and debate her obligations to her mother, to her grandfather, and to her father. She goes on an adventure to find the answers and determine who she is.


While reading this book, I found that I had trouble understanding the plot line. Rue’s character begins seeing weird things that aren’t explained in the beginning. She has powers she is not certain of but the illustrations left me questioning what they were. The story line jumps around and I find it hard to follow. While I am a fan of Holly Black and Graphic Novels, this book was a tremendous challenge for me and I am still not sure if I know what was going on fully. This book demands you spend time analyzing the artwork. The artwork in this book also left something to be desired as I had trouble placing the secondary characters. Overall, I think readers who love graphic novels and love paranormal will like this book. Its dark, its creepy, and it goes by fast but I would not recommend this book to anyone on the fence about graphic novels. It does take some considerable studying to place the characters, scenes, and plots.

Professional Reviews

Rue Silver’s everyday life with her professor father and ethereal mother comes crashing to a surreal end when her mother one day simply disappears. As Rue starts noticing oddities in her little town—people with wings or animal faces, or vines that seem to sprout up over everything at night—she tries to tell herself that such things would be crazy. When her extended family appear and claim that she is part of a hidden faerie world, Rue finds herself embroiled in a magical fight for power. The first volume in a series, this book goes a long way in setting up a foreboding, darkly mysterious atmosphere while giving the reader quick details for characterization. Black, one of the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, does a wonderful job of weaving an alien faerie world through Rue’s urban landscape, and Naifeh’s art, rich with shadows, is expressive and angular and pulls the reader into the story with a solid sense of place. Urban-fantasy readers of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lindt, and Terri Windling will be immediate fans of this title.


Coleman, T. (2008). [Review of The Good Neighbors]. Booklists. Retrieved from:


Rue Silver’s life is about to be turned upside down. Already, her mother has disappeared after having a loud argument with her father. Even worse, she’s now beginning to see things — frightening things, like people with horns and wings that no one else notices. What’s worse, the things she sees are looking back at her.

Matters quickly get worse from there. Police are already curious about her mother’s disappearance, but when one of her father’s college students is found murdered after visiting his office, they arrest him. Armed with a determination to uncover the truth, Rue begins investigating the case on her own. What she finds brings her deeper into a fantasy world she knows precious little about, a world she’s a part of whether she likes it or not: the dark and dangerous realm of the faeries. Sometimes known as “the fair folk,” they have some very sinister plans afoot. Rue gets a taste of those plans when she meets the grandfather she never knew. He wants her to come live with him, but Rue is rightfully afraid.

Holly Black has proven she knows her way around this territory, most notably in The Spiderwick Chronicles, but also in the faerie-themed books TITHE, VALIANT and IRONSIDE. This is her first time writing about the faerie world in graphic novel form, though, and for this foray in the medium, she has been paired with a perfect partner in the form of artist Ted Naifeh, himself no stranger to the otherworldly. His Courtney Crumrin series is a top-notch mixture of fantasy and spine-tingling fiction. Here, he nicely gives his artwork a solidly human perspective shaded with dark overtones. He evokes fear and wonder at the same time, and the flow of his panels has a cinematic quality that pair gracefully with Black’s lean prose.

As an introduction to this new series, KIN kicks things off with a bang. It nicely sets the stage for a portentous battle between evil forces and the good people who will try to stop them. The murder mystery at the heart of this story is perhaps too quickly and easily dispatched, but it clears the way for the far more interesting storyline of Rue’s self-discovery. Rue is refreshingly unique, a bright character (it’s nice to see a teenage protagonist who doesn’t have to speak with razor-sharp wit all the time) with a genuine curiosity about life. She’s smart and determined without being affected, a nice touch.

The Good Neighbors shows great promise as a series. It targets an audience 12 and older with a story that effortlessly glides between thriller and mystery. Equally impressive is its fine pacing; it’s a book to savor at leisure and the plot doesn’t feel the need to rush. Still, that kind of pacing can have a dark side, as evidenced by the publishing schedule for future books in the series. The second and third installments are projected to be published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, a long wait for readers anxious to find out what will become of the enchanting Rue Silver.

Hogan, J. (2008). The good neighbors, book one: kin. Teen Reads. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

I would love to use this and other graphic novel books to do a workshop on graphic novels with teens. We could map out the story arc of the book and how it was condensed into a short and graphic work of art. Then the group could create an original story arc or take another novel and work on illustrations, practice with expression, and develop an understanding for adding context to the illustrations.