Friday, February 15, 2013

Finding Alice

To begin, I am embarrassed to say that I am an adult, two years away from thirty, and I have not read Go Ask Alice.  My local library only had one copy and eventually it went missing (to this day, I don’t think they ever found the culprit). My book allowance was small and our bookstores in the area were nonexistent, so I had to be quite choosy about what I bought to read. Alas, Alice did not make the cut.

It breaks my hear to discover that most of my freshman do not read. Every day it is a desperate battle to get them interested in anything besides the personal spheres they inhabit. So when my students are interested in a book, I make a point to read it. A few semesters ago, some of my classes were reading the Crank trilogy by Ellen Hopkins. Interested by the free verse poetry format, I decided to take the time. This in itself proved to be an odyssey of sorts – the public library had a few copies but a very long waiting list presented itself. While my book allowance has grown, I still refused to spend the money. This was turning into another Alice.

Luckily, the Booktrader had a copy! I read all three of the Crank (Crank, Impulse, Glass) novels and while the story is compelling, the entire narrative regarding Kristina and her addiction could have been written in a single volume, prose novel. The poems did nothing for me but give me a headache with the crazy font and spacing. However, Kristina’s story stuck with me and I decided to buy (yes, I did say “buy) Go Ask Alice.

With that being said, I have come to the conclusion that addiction literature is hard to find and also very difficult to write. Unless it is a direct memoir such as Tweak (Nic Sheff) or Beautiful Boy (written by his father David Sheff) [NOTE: These two novels should always be read as a pair] I am noticing that a fictional-but-based-from-a-true-story addicted protagonist is hard to pin down. The only FICTIONALIZED story about addiction that pulls this off well is Walter Dean Myers’ Dope Sick. But let’s face it, Mr. Myers is excellent at young adult fiction. Unfortunately, that novel is too young and my students are in the 18-20 year range, so it makes sense that Hopkins’ gritty series speaks to them. Again - how do we make them convincing? At what point do we decide that we care if they live or die? In the case of Kristina’s situation in Crank ---

(to summarize: Kristina ends up having kids with different fathers and her only relationship is her addiction to meth. Her mother takes in her first son, but the other children end up living with their fathers, also drug addicts, or taken into foster homes.)

--I could have cared less about Kristina and worried more for her children. I think Hopkins felt this way too because the last novel of the trilogy is told through the POV’s of Kristina’s children. Her oldest, Hunter, is the less sympathetic of the bunch, but I digress.

Maybe I expected more from Crank. The beginning of the novel introduces the perfect young adult, Kristina, who decides one night to dance with the “monster” Crank. Personifying the drug and making it a tangible demon to follow Kristina around may have held my interest a bit more. However, I cannot fault Kristina/Bree. Without them, I would not have rekindled my interest jump down the rabbit hole and Go Ask Alice.

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