Bibliographic information: Crank. Ellen Hopkins. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004. $11.99. 537p. ISBN-13: 9780689865190.
Summary: Katrina is a normal kid who never does anything. She is practically the model child. Her parents didn’t stay together very long and she doesn’t know her father at all, other than what her mom has told her: that he is a ne’er-do-well father. Katrina is finally able to convince her mom that she is old enough to visit her father and get to know him. So during spring break she goes, and that is when she is introduced to the Monster.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 8 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: This shockingly realistic book is uniquely written in verse the entire way through. If you didn’t like poetry before reading this book, you just might be hooked on it after reading this book. Hopkins writes real-life situations and doesn’t hold back, using all the nitty-gritty details and none of the fluff. She tells it like it is. Her characters are real and easy to relate to. They speak to young readers who are struggling with the same situations. Highly recommended to all. Parents and teachers should be reading her books as well as teens.
Readers’ annotation: Her life was fine, if a bit boring, until she met the Monster. The Monster changed her life.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: The drug use and struggle that Katrina goes through will speak to teens who are going through the same situation or has a friend who is going through the same situation. This book will show these teens that they are not the only ones going through a difficult situation and there are ways to get past it and move on with life. Reading this book might encourage others to seek help with their problems.
Issues present: They book lays heavy emphasis on drug use and some people might be against the impressions this could potentially make on teens. Although, generally when a teens goes to read a book like this, they are not trying to get ideas on how to live their lives, they are trying to get idea’s on how to cope with the issues in their lives. This book could potentially save a teens life.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Katrina’s character.
P. 1 – defines the plot, simply.
Talk about drug addictions.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: drug addiction
Readalikes: Other Hopkins books, Go Ask Alice, Cut, Smack
Author’s website: http://ellenhopkins.com/
Awards: Abraham Lincoln Award (2009)
Reviews: Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Crank-Ellen-Hopkins/pid=232295; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-20174758442494.xml; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-86519-0; Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellen-hopkins/crank/
Why I chose it: I have always been a bit curious about Hopkins work and find her writing style intriguing so thought I would give it a try.
Bibliographic information: The House of the Scorpion. Nancy Farmer. Athenium Books for Young Readers, 2002. $19.45. 380p. ISBN-13: 978-0689852220.
Summary: In the future where clones are harvested for their organs, Matteo (Matt) Alacran is such a clone of the drug-lord Matteo Alacran, known as El Patron. He was raised in an isolated cabin far out in the opium fields by a chef, Celia, from the Alacran estate. One day when Matt, six years old now, is home alone he hears children outside, he has never seen other children before. Matt knows he is not supposed to show himself, but curiosity gets the better of him and he goes to the window. Unfortunately the kids see him and try to talk to him. This leads to them coming back the next day and doing the same. Matt ends up breaking the window and jumping out so that he can join them, but he ends up cutting his legs, hands, and feet quite badly on the glass. The kids rush him to the estate to get him a doctor, but when the adults discover who he is they throw him outside and later locked in a cell and treated like an animal for three months after that. When El Patron discovers the condition of his clone and is furious. Afterword, Matt is living like royalty, but still seen as an animal by others. The good life does not last long for Matt and soon his dreams are destroyed and his life is threatened.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: 12 and up
Review: This is a captivating novel that is sure to grab the attention of teen readers. Matt is a complex character with a personality that will you will have a hard time not liking. He starts out a bit naive, but compassionate, and turns into a strong-willed, intelligent boy. All of the other characters lend in creating a colorful cast for this novel. Farmer does a magnificent job of laying out the setting and creating a desolate feel to the story that you can only hope will get better. This book brings up a great topic of discussion on cloning and cloning rights. Matt is treated like an animal by everybody because he is a clone. Clones are only grown so that who ever they are the clone for can use them to harvest their organs or other body parts. Is it really okay to bring a being into the world for the full use of harvesting them? Do clones deserve the same rights as non-clones, or since they are a science specimen do they not get those rights? This is a tough one, and I think Farmer does a great job of voicing her own opinion on the matter. She also brings up the topic of harvesting opium that could generate a great discussion as well. A great read that comes highly recommended.
Readers’ annotation: Matt doesn’t know it yet, but he was cloned solely to have his organs harvested to help his donor live for another 50 years
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: There is a lot of abuse and violence happening to Matt in this story and children will be able to read this book and use it as a coping mechanism for fighting their own terrors in life.
Issues present: This book has cloning, opium harvesting, and what might be seen as child abuse. However, it does a standup job of describing human ethics and human nature that children will be able to understand and take note of what not to do with similar situations. Also, it could create a great discussion on the ethical values of cloning.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Matt’s character. –
P 43: “The days passed with agonizing slowness, followed by nights of misery.” to the end of the page. – Matt’s life in prison.
P 230: Matt’s struggle to escape his death.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian, clones
Readalikes: The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Giver
Author’s website: http://www.nancyfarmerwebsite.com/
Awards: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2002), Newbery Honor (2003), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2003), Buxtehuder Bulle (2003), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2005) Printz Honor (2003), South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2006), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2005), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (2005), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2003), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2003), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2008)
Reviews: Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-85222-0
Why I chose it: Somebody highly recommended it to me and after reading it thought it would be a great addition to my collection.
Bibliographic information: Go Ask Alice. Anonymous. Prentice-Hall, 1971. $17.99. 192p. ISBN-13: 9780671664589.
Summary: A fifteen year old girl keeps a diary of everything she is feeling and what she does with her day. She starts out by telling us about all sorts of issues, such as crushes, weight loss, sexuality, social acceptance, and her difficulty relating to her parents. She wants to make her parents happy more than anything and they don’t think she gets out enough with friends, she is always cooped up in her room. When her father accepts a new job in a new city they move, and the girl feels like even more of an outcast, without any friends. She eventually finds a friend, Beth, and they become best friends. Beth leaves for summer camp, so the girl goes to stay with her grandparents in her old town and reunites with an old schoolmate, Jill, who finds it cool that the girl is living in a big city. Jill invites her to a party and the girl accepts because it’s nice to be accepted. At the party the girl is given a drink, that is unknowingly laced with LSD, and ends up having an intense drug trip that she finds pleasurable. And this is the start of an up and down roller coaster of drug addiction for the girl.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 9 and up
Review: Supposedly based on an actual diary written by a fifteen year old girl struggling with drug addiction, this book should be a Lifetime special. This book is highly controversial and has been since it first came out in 1971. The name of the girl was never given in the book, we just get to see life through her eyes and how hard it was for her to fit in to society. She wants to be perfect for her parents, but can’t seem to get it right. After she tried the drugs once, she couldn’t seem to stop no matter how many times she decided she was going to. She was constantly being pulled back into the drug world by a craving she couldn’t overcome. Also, she appeared to be under a lot of pressure and the drugs helped her feel light and carefree. But she always suffered the consequences, until it was finally too much. The girl comes off as very realistic and believable. It is hard not to feel a little sorry for her. Although, this is a great book against drug use and the details of the writer are amazing, especially for a fifteen year old, which makes you wonder about the author. Something every teen should read.
Readers’ annotation: She never experienced a drug trip before, but now she can’t get enough of it. How could something so bad for you, be so powerful?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: The girl is struggling under the pressure to be the perfect daughter and student, but she can’t handle the pressure and is sucked into the world of drugs and it creates the downfall for her. Teens will be able to relate to the girls troubles and her struggles and they will be able to understand that drugs are not the answer and they should choose a different path. If they are feeling pressured and can’t hold the weight, they should talk to somebody about their troubles rather than despair under the weight of it all.
Issues present: Contains heavy drug use, some alcohol, smoking, sex, and vulgar language as well. Some parents or teachers might be against these issues and not want their teen to read this book. However, we see the bad side of these substances and are shown what will happen if you were to become addicted to drugs. Teens will be able to learn from this book and understand that drugs are not to be used.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce the girl’s character.
Compare the girl before and after the drugs.
The first time she tried them she was hooked.
Genre or subject: Realistic Fiction: drug abuse
Readalikes: Ellen Hopkins books, Jay’s Journal, Beauty Queen, My Name is Cloe, A Not-so-simple Life
Author’s website: Anonymous author, that was supposedly a fifteen year old girl who kept a diary of her adventures into the world of drugs. Beatrice Sparks is reported to be the author/editor, but this is not marked in the book anywhere so I can’t be sure whether it is true or not. Sparks apparently is the author/editor of several books like Go Ask Alice, such as Jay’s Journal, Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager, Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager’s Life on the Streets, Annie’s Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager and It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager. and is given credit for this one as well. I could not find an official webpage for her.
Awards: Winner of YALSA 100 Best Books Awards 1950-2000 (2002)
Reviews: Commonsense media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/go-ask-alice; Teen Ink: http://teenink.com/reviews/book_reviews/article/56564/Go-Ask-Alice-by-Anonymous/
Why I chose it: I have always been interested in Go Ask Alice because I had heard so many mixed reviews on it from friends and co-workers. So I took the opportunity to read it for this blog.