When I picked this book up, I thought I would be in for a treat. I was excited about the format, and for some reason the short, thick dimensions were (unexpectedly) interesting in a good way. Ellen Hopkins decided to tell the story using free verse poetry, so of course I would like it. I love those odd, unique choices. I had read Zombie Haiku which is similar -using the little harmonic 3 lined poems to develop the apocalyptic struggle- short, but extremely successful, so I figured this would be just another verse-full joy. It was not.
Crank tells the story of a young girl, Kristina, who, on a 3 week vacation to see her father, becomes enamored with Adam, who then enables her to try Meth. Upon trying the drug, she falls into its addictive grip. Back from her vacation with her father, her struggle through her addiction becomes even more complicated when she is raped.
Hopkins’ novels are widely respected and simultaneously the center of controversy. She deals with hard subjects; drugs, sex, rape, and suicide and receives droves of criticism as a result. As a voice for these issues, she stands as a roughly real writer and people seem to either condemn her works or give exceptional praise for them. I find myself wanting to do neither.
Initially, I thought that because I have never done drugs there was a lack of connection to the character. Maybe that’s true, but I have not been completely shielded from drugs either. I know people , friends and family, who have suffered from such addictions, some people facing extremely similar situations and consequences. I think the feeling of a lack of connection was from something else. I think that Kristina’s sense of character is lost, which is sad because poetry is the medium in which the particulars a writer chooses to highlight in the story shows the audience the character and the scenes in such a vibrant, precise way. When you choose to write a book in only poetry, you need to allow that format to contribute those minute yet distinct details. It’s a challenge, a real, very difficult challenge that takes more than just knowing poetry and just knowing novels. You need to have a firm grasp of storytelling and movement, rhythm, syllabic importance -even if it is free verse, but above everything you need to be able to allow alterations to the story you have to tell and to the poetry in order to make the best work from them both. It’s a give and take when trying to make two things work together. In some cases what you have set in mind needs to be changed to make it work well. It’s tricky, especially when you are talking about taking a novel (wordy, descriptive in such a way that gives you the most amount of detail) and formatting it in poetry (precise, descriptive in the way that gives you only the most important details).
This novel has all the elements to a compelling story, it has characters that can be interesting, it even has a unique form and delivery, but for me it lacks. I understand it, I know there is pain, I hear the poetry, I can see why people love it and I can see why others hate it, but, for me, it still just lacks. Maybe it’s the sense of a lost connection. Maybe it’s simply that the reputation hyped it up and then it fell short by comparison. Or maybe it’s the choices Hopkins made while writing.
A teacher from high school once told me that the hardest part about writing is picking and choosing what to keep and what to scrap. It is completely true. All of those details you choose to give or cut really decides how well the work comes out. And with poetry it is even more important due to the brevity of the form. It makes me think that in Hopkins’ (undoubted) countless edits, amidst the trash and crumples, there lies pieces, fragments of the story, those little details that would have made a stronger connection and a very successful marriage of novel and free verse.