So I’m blasting through books lately.
Ellen Hopkins is an extremely well known author for realistic fiction for teens. She covers in a raw deep way subjects like drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, prostitution and other mental illness.
Her style of writing is poetic and crafted with such clarity. The sounds of the words give more inner meaning than just reading them, and the narrator of her books, one of them, she has books with multiple narrators, does an amazing job of capturing the twister of emotions in each bit of text.
From what I’ve read online her books have been life saving to teens dealing with similar issues. She has established herself as a respected and personable author hoping that her books will help those trapped in the experiences that make these stories so heartbreakingly relatable. In this story, the main character Christina, represents her own daughter Christina.
On to this specific book.
It tells the story of sixteen year old Christina Georgia Sno. Up to this point walking on a straight and narrow path. With down to earth friends, no boyfriend, no time with school, family events, church ETC
Though no child is perfect, she’s the center of a family that values good grades, togetherness and their daughter’s future. It seems from the start that her parents especially mother pin so much on this and the pressure is incredible.
As for the family makeup: Her mom divorced her dad when she was about six. Didn’t hear from him for years and years. Meanwhile Scott moved in some time later and they had a son together Jake. Leigh is the older sister who is lesbian, something that the parents are concerned about but know they really can’t meddle in too much. At the time of the story Leigh was in college coming to see the family at the last of the summer break.
On this summer break her Dad calls out of the blue wanting to see her. Her mom is totally against it. One characteristic we see right away is Christina’s incredible ability to manipulate situations and those around her. Only finding regret when this side of herself, this rebel in side her has stepped back. She named this part of her Bree. She says she’s not some imaginary friend, not an alter ego” in the standard sense of the word. I’m not sure if it’s dissociation or just a way to disown this growing sense of needing to break lose from this boring life with external pressures and expectations.
Regardless Bree wears her mom down and Christina is off to New Mexico. What he finds is a guy totally lost on how to be a father. A part of her deeply wanted a dad. And she got a stranger. A stranger living in a very dirty roach filled apartment, who right away she noticed did some kind of drugs but not knowing what.
Her father works at a bowling alley helping out with fitting shoes and gathering balls. On the first day there Christina meets Adam. Adam strikes her right away with his soft voice and she feels pulled towards him. Through him she first heard about crank, or meth or speed. Whatever people call it.
In one moment she says yes to trying it. I like how the author will sometimes switch to second person saying things like “you know how you feel when… “ and then give several examples that anyone can relate to, for either extreme high or lows, and then say that’s what being on crank is like, or what crashing from it is or something. You feel totally drawn into her world, a partner watching her every move feeling her every feeling from the wild out of this world moods that are so hard for even a poet’s voice to capture, for someone who never experienced it. To the deep depressions and endless overpowering need to “score” some more.
The author’s choice to use this style is how I feel we know Christina the best.
That one time was enough to set her on a wild rollercoaster ride with “the monster.” The monster is crank, meth. She so clearly describes his ways, how he winds himself in you and the more you try to pull away the deeper he goes. These raw references are chilling.
By the time she left her vacation, her father was more a stranger than ever, (though she knew now that he was crankin too.” And she had a sort of boyfriend. She experienced her first kiss as gentle yet passionate. She had her first taste of the power of love and also the power of the monster.
Home she had to hide from her family the truth of how things had so changed her. Her stepdad was unapproachable and often angry with her. Her mom was emotional, confused, terrified for her. Yet not knowing what to do. We ride the spinning merry go round alongside Christina. As she struggles to try to keep her feelings and need for this drug in check, while Bree more ever present puts Christina in situations she never dreamed of. Connecting with the worst of the crowd at school just to get crank. Needing it more and more each day as the months wear on.
She is totally mixed up about her feelings for Adam concerned yet moving on with a girlfriend and then for Chase. Someone she meets at a water park. Chase is intuitive down to earth. He does drugs too, and he warns Christina as he witnesses her hunger for speed to be careful. She says she will. She tries to quit. To be better towards her concerned yet helpless family, to do well in school reconnect with old friends. She only makes it a week or so before she must turn back to her overwhelming need to be in an altered state just to function. The scores get more complicated as she starts dealing it as well.
Another guy who’s willing to provide is Brenden. A life guard she also met in the water park. He seems ok. She’s very confused about these three men in her life. He is hungry for sex and on one terrible night things go too far.
Kristina is shattered, but even with all that trauma Bree isn’t too far behind.
The months go on: the lying to everyone even herself, the worried parents, school, no one to talk to, being afraid to open her mouth for fear of where it would lead her. The groundings (GUFN grounded until Further notice” LOL, and her tricks of sneaking out to find the right boy, chase now not Brenden.
Things come to a head when she discovers she’s pregnant. And with that juicy bit of info I leave you to ponder where things will go, because there are a vast amount of possibilities.
This is not a preachy cautionary tale. This is the raw truth of addiction, broken family relationships, depression, teen pregnancy. The uphill battle of quitting even when a life depends on it.
The ending. Not happy. Suspended in mid air. She made a choice that will affect not only her but others forever. And yet in the back of her mind even knowing she must lock the door for good the monster and Bree are still not too far behind.
I highly recommend this book. I’ve never ever been on any drugs except what they give us here. Random thought I wonder if you took a bunch of like antipsychotics or whatever pills like Ativan if you’d experience the totally out of control but amazingly freeing feelings Christina described. I do not want to know.
You feel for Christina and walk with her every step and misstep. She is a real living raw complicated person. Who was thrown into a world she never imagined. And will face the consequences of that forever.
This book obviously could be very triggering for those who are addicts of the drug in question or any drug. As it describes graphically the experience of getting high wouldn’t recommend reading until you’re on the other side the demanding process of recovery. This has been the way for many readers, they read this book and see themselves at many or all stages of christina’s journey and how her choices landed her in this precarious place at the end of the story. Please read this book if you have any interest in the psychology of addiction, know a family member or friend who’s dealing with this. I do wish more resources were offered. That we could have witnessed Christina in an addiction rehab. Seeing a therapist, family therapy even. But the raw exploration of one girls journey from too much expectation to the too muchness of where drugs lead her balances out the lack of treatment mentioned. There are three books in this series. Hoping in the next two we’ll see some treatment explored.
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