This is a story about a monster. Not a dragon or a mythological beast, but a very real, very destructive monster--crystal meth--that takes hold of seventeen-year-old Kristina Snow and transforms her into her reckless alter-ego Bree. Based on her own daughter's addiction to crystal meth, Ellen Hopkins' novel-in-verse is a vivid, transfixing look into teenage drug use. Told in Kristina's voice, it provides a realistic portrayal of the tortured logic of an addict.
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A Reading Group Guide to the
Crank, Glass, Fallout trilogy
by Ellen Hopkins
Overall pre-reading questions for the series:
Why might teens begin using drugs like meth even though they know the dangers?
How might drug addiction impact a family?
What scars might drug addiction leave for generations to come?
A Reading Group Guide to Crank by Ellen Hopkins
ABOUT THE BOOK
Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if she had just stayed in Reno for the summer. Or if her father had turned out to be the man she had wanted him to be instead of the disappointment that she found. Or maybe if Adam hadn’t been so beautiful and broken and in need of her love. Maybe then Kristina wouldn’t have snorted her first line of crank and maybe then her life wouldn’t be spiraling out of control. But maybe doesn’t count in the real world, and it certainly won’t save Kristina from the monster.
How would you describe Bree? Is this the same way that Kristina would describe her? Where did Bree come from?
For Kristina, what is the lure of crystal meth? What does it provide for her? What does it take away?
Describe Kristina’s mother, father, and stepfather. Are they in any way responsible for her addiction? Do you think that there’s anything else they could have—or should have—done to help her?
Why is Kristina drawn to Adam? To Chase? To Brendan? In what ways are these three similar and in what ways are they different? How does Kristina’s relationship with each one affect her?
Which boy is most harmful to her?
Why does Kristina decide to keep her baby? What reasons might she have had for giving it up? Do you think she made the right decision?
Why does Kristina always call crank “the monster”? How do you think her renaming of the drug affects her attitude toward it and her sense of responsibility regarding it? Are there other things or people in the story that get renamed? How does this affect the way in which they are regarded?
Kristina sometimes refers to herself and her life before drugs as boring and worthless, yet at other times she seems to regard it as something very precious. What attitude do you think is closest to her true feelings? Do you think those around her would agree with her assessment?
The author chose to write this story in verse. Why do you think that she chose this format? What effect does this have on how you feel about the characters and events?
What is the overall message of this book? Do you think the story will act as a deterrent for teens who are considering drugs?
As we can see in Crank, poetry allows us to express ourselves in new and creative ways. Write a poem or series of poems about something that has happened in your life
Choose a drug—crystal meth or some other drug that you’ve heard of—and research its effects on the user. Find out exactly what it does in the body, how long the side effects last, how much it typically costs, and any other pertinent facts.
Kristina has an alter ego who allows her to be more careless and daring. What would your alter ego be like? Choose a name, list all the character traits s/he would have, and list the things that s/he could help you do. Imagine what your life would be like if you acted more like your alter ego.
Kristina’s baby, like many children of addicts, cries a lot and needs to be held more than other babies. Find out if your local hospital will allow you to volunteer to hold babies born addicted. If your community has no such programs, perhaps you could consider volunteering at a local drug clinic or an anti-drug program at your school.
Write a short story about what you think will happen to Kristina and her baby after the events depicted in the book.
There are several other books about teenage drug addiction, including Go Ask Alice and Smack. Read one of these other books and compare it to Crank.
A Reading Group Guide to Glass by Ellen Hopkins
ABOUT THE BOOK
This sequel to Crank (2004) picks up after Kristina Snow has given birth to her first son, Hunter. Addicted to meth after a brief visit to her estranged father, Kristina thinks that she can manage her addiction—without giving it up—now that she has a baby to care for. A young mother living with her mother and stepfather, who support her and Hunter, Kristina is disheartened with her excess weight and has lost confidence in herself in other ways, as well. Now a high school dropout, Kristina takes a job at the 7-11 and toys with the idea of using again to regain her pre-baby figure. Kristina gives in to the monster again, thinking she can control how much she uses, and begins another gradual spiral downward into hopelessness. Along the way, she meets Trey, a meth user, and moves farther away from her relationship with her baby and the support of her family. Her parents take custody of her son, and Kristina and Trey live rough lives as meth addicts, sleeping in Trey’s car and selling drugs to pay for their addiction. A final discovery leads to yet another challenge that Kristina may or may not be able to handle, and hope for her future, as fragile as it’s become, wears even thinner.
Ask students one of the following: 1) What do you know about the drug meth? 2) Why might a seemingly “perfect” teen turn to meth? 3) To what extent would you be willing to support an immediate family member who is addicted to meth?
In the opening of Glass, Hopkins reminds the reader of Kristina Snow’s fall “into the lair of the monster,” a metaphor for meth. How is the word monster an appropriate metaphor for meth?
Kristina’s alter ego, Bree, takes over when she is high on meth. What does Kristina mean when she says she made a “conscious decision” to turn into Bree?
Kristina meets Trey, a user and drug dealer, and falls head over heels for him. A year previously she had fallen for Adam, who introduced her to meth. After their relationship, why does Kristina fall for Trey, another drug dealer? What characteristics does he have that draw her in? Why does she maintain this relationship even though she knows Trey has other girlfriends?
Kristina knows that she should resist the monster. Why do you think she lacks the strength? Why might recovering addicts believe they can use again but control their drug habit?
Chase, a boyfriend from Crank, has a minor role in this novel. When Kristina encounters him, she is somewhat tentative. What feelings does she have for him? Why do you think Hopkins develops the scene in which Kristina encounters Chase with his new wife?
Kristina’s mother and stepfather want Kristina to heal. Why does Kristina journey down the wrong path again? What emotions exist between Kristina and her mother? Between her stepfather and Kristina?
Would you describe the way Kristina feels as “empty”? Explain. How much power do Kristina’s parents have to help her? Could they have done anything to prevent her from spiraling downward again? If so, what?
Kristina became hooked on meth when visiting her biological father, a meth user. When her father pays a visit on her birthday, Kristina shares her own stash with him. Describe their relationship. In what ways is her relationship with her father similar to her relationship with her mother? How is it different?
Does Trey genuinely care for Kristina? Does Brad? Cite scenes to support your response.
Does Kristina feel parental attachment to Hunter in the beginning of the story? Explain. Do her feelings toward him change throughout the story? If so, in what way?
Does Kristina grow throughout the story? Why or why not? Cite passages to support your thoughts.
Kristina’s mother “throws her out” and/or refuses to see her while she is addicted. Does her mother take appropriate steps by turning her away? Glass contains numerous shape poems. Identify two shape poems and explain the meaning of these forms. What effect do they have on the overall story? Why do you think Hopkins chose these shapes?
Glass begs for another follow-up in the series. What might happen to Kristina now that she and Trey have been busted? Will she distance herself from Trey or will they continue their relationship? Will she rejoin her family and resist the monster?
Organize a drug awareness campaign in your school and/or community. You may develop brochures outlining the dangers of meth and invite a guest speaker (ex., adolescent therapist) to your school, church/synagogue, etc., to speak to your peers.
Re-examine the shape poetry found in Glass. Write your own poem in a shape that suits the poem’s theme. You may create a Shape Poetry Collection that when read together convenes a theme or short story.
Research meth and its effects on the body. Develop a blog or wiki on the dangers of meth and include information about where teens can go for help. Share the site with others in your school.
Kristina is the “perfect” girl. She is pretty, smart, and lives a comfortable lifestyle with her family. Why might someone who seemingly has everything turn to drugs? Read nonfiction accounts of teens who turn to meth. Develop a presentation that outlines common reasons teens turn toward drugs.
Volunteer to work for an organization that supports high-risk children such as a Big Brother or Big Sister.
Read a follow-up fiction novel that addresses drug addiction (ex., Candy by Kevin Brooks or St. Iggy by K. L. Going). Compare and contrast the stories. What characteristics do the drug addicts share? How are they different?
A Reading Group Guide to Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
ABOUT THE BOOK
The final installment in the Crank trilogy, Fallout picks up almost two decades after Kristina’s parents assume custody of Hunter. Hunter is in college and has two half sisters and two half brothers. Told in alternating voices, the verse novel concentrates on the lives of Hunter and his two teenage half sisters: Autumn and Summer. All three are being raised by different families. Hunter has a steady girlfriend and struggles to understand and control his anger. Autumn has panic attacks and cannot handle the fact her aunt, Trey’s sister, is marrying and moving away. She turns to alcohol and begins having unprotected sex, even fantasizing about getting pregnant. Summer has been abused at the hands of her father’s girlfriends and does not know she has a sister until she begins questioning her father about her past. Lonely and longing for connection, Summer runs away with her boyfriend, Kyle. Hunter, Autumn, and Summer share the same anger and mixed feelings about their mother. Their lives intersect one Christmas at Kristina’s parents’ home, where they encounter their mother, who has little emotional connection with them. While the three fear they are predestined to follow in their mother’s footsteps, they begin finding pieces of connection and dare to hope for better lives.
What psychological impact might drug addiction have on offspring?
Is it possible for a drug addiction to be just one person’s problem?
How else, besides drugs like meth, can an addiction manifest itself, especially in the life of a teenager?
Since the birth of her first child, Hunter, how has Kristina changed over the years? How has she remained the same? How has her relationship with her parents evolved?
How are Hunter, Autumn, and Summer alike? How are they different? Which of the three has a better chance at a successful life? Why?
Why is Autumn so careless about unprotected sex? How does she feel about getting pregnant? Is she grounded in reality? Explain.
Summer has feelings for both Matt and Matt’s friend, Kyle. She describes Matt as a nice guy who has never pushed her to have sex and who has never belittled her or yelled at her. However, these positive characteristics “make him boring” How can this be? What characteristics in a boy excite her? Why? What similar responses to men does her mother have? Consider her mother’s relationship with Ron.
Trey and Autumn’s journey to Autumn’s grandparents house is also a journey through Trey’s relationship with Autumn’s mother and, ultimately, his relationship with Autumn, his daughter. Along the way, Trey says, “I’ve/spent the last fifteen/years hating your mother . . . What I couldn’t see/ was that hate controlled me.” What does Trey mean? Give examples. What other characters have been controlled by hate? Explain.
Anger is a recurring theme in Fallout. Hunter reflects on his own rage and wonders why people take it out on those they love. Why do you think those closest often are hit the hardest by rage? Is Hunter’s anger justified? What about his mother’s? Explain.
How might anger be self-contempt? Use Kristina as an example.
Hunter’s mother remarks in the closing pages that she “used to live ‘mad’”. What does she mean and how has she changed? Has she found peace? Explain.
Autumn and Summer both want desperately to be loved. Explain their desperation. Why are they so quick to fall for a boy? Why are they so needy? In what ways are they like their mother? In what ways are they different from their mother? How will they need to change so that they can have healthy relationships with men?
How do Kristina’s children define love? Would you say they “misname” love? If so, explain.
Kristina has hurt everyone she has touched, and she seems to know she has. How does she respond to the pain she has caused?
Will Kristina’s family ever heal? What scars might remain? Explain.
Fallout ends with the phrase, “ . . . look/very long at/Kristina, I see/me/me/me.” Each use of the pronoun me represents one of Kristina’s three older children. What do all three wish for? What are their fears? Will each of them be able to stop the “monster” from destroying their own families?
Draw and/or use computer software to generate a relationship tree, highlighting the key characters in Fallout.
Choose one of the following relationships to research: father/daughter, father/son, mother/son, mother/daughter. What are the characteristics of a healthy relationship between the two? What relationship difficulties might a young teen have if one of these relationships is damaged? Prepare a class presentation based on your findings.
Organize a book read at your school between parents/guardians and their children around a book with strong relationship themes between parents/guardians and teens. Mothers and sons might read a YA novel about a mother/son relationship (ex., Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis); a father and daughter might read a YA novel about a father/daughter relationship (ex., Story of a Girl by Sara Zaar). Adopted children and their adoptive parents might read Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher.
Read a nonfiction account or a biography about a child growing up in a foster home (ex., Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter) and share your reactions to the reading with the class.
Crank guide written by Cory Grimminck, Director, Hillsdale Community Library, Hillsdale, MI.
Glass & Fallout guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen young adult novels, as well as the adult novels Triangles, Collateral, and Love Lies Beneath. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she has founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative. Visit her at EllenHopkins.com and on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter at @EllenHopkinsLit.
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