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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blog No. 9--Glass by Ellen Hopkins


Title: Glass
Author: Ellen Hopkins

Bibliographic Information:
Published April, 2009
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Grade Range: 9 and up, Age Range: 14 and up
ISBN-10: 141694091X
ISBN-13: 9781416940913
Trade Paperback: 704 pages

National Bestseller-- New York Times® Bestseller
ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
ALA Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Sequoyah Children's Master List (OK)
The Flume: New Hampshire Teen Reader's Choice Award Nominee

Reader’s Annotation:
Kristina Georgia Snow, once the perfect teenager—is caught in the hold of the monster which is called by many names: crank, snow, ice, crystal and glass. This book continues Kristina’s story—the story that begun in the novel, Crank—and shows that, despite best efforts or intentions, once that monster takes hold—either physically or mentally—he doesn’t let go easily.

Plot Summary:
Kristina Georgia Snow is back at home, having cleaned up her act long enough to have her baby—a beautiful boy she named Hunter Seth—and she is trying hard to go on with her life and take care of him. Baby daddy Brendan doesn’t know about Hunter—a product of rape—and Kristina wants it to stay that way. She still thinks about Chase, the one she let get away, the one that really loved her. She still thinks about Adam, the one she met while visiting her dad. She still thinks about the monster, and is determined to find a way to invite him back into her life, which has become even more boring and tedious, now that she is trapped at home under mom’s watchful eye.

Mom Marie agrees to let Kristina stay home and raise her son—and even helps her with the baby—provided Kristina gets her GED, and agrees to go to college to make something of herself. But the monster is too tempting, and she just has to meet him again.

Kristina contacts Trent (her gay friend who is now studying to be a lawyer) only to find out where his sister Robyn, the strung-out former cheerleader, has ended up. She’s in college, but Trent warns Kristina that Robyn is not the same. Kristina cons her mom to visit Robyn, when she finds out that Robyn can get some crank, using the ploy that she wants to see the college and find out if that would be a good choice for her. While there, she meets Trey, another hot guy with a drug problem, and she falls for him. Eventually she ends up doing glass again, and falling for Trey. Mom kicks her out, making sure that Hunter stays behind. She ends up living with Trey’s cousin, Brad, a recently divorced, 20-something guy with two little girls. She becomes their nanny, and continues to do drugs while Brad—who deals them, but doesn’t do them—is at work. Kristina’s life is up and down, and she learns to lie, cheat, and even steal from her mom and the Mexican Mafia—to support her habit. She craves both love and the monster, and with Trey’s help, gets both—only to end up pregnant again, and in even more dire circumstances than before. The story does not end well for Kristina in any way—but how far she falls is shocking not only to her family, but to Kristina herself, and ultimately, to the readers of this book. But with drugs involved, how could it be otherwise?

Critical Evaluation:
I read Glass before I read Crank and it really didn’t matter: Glass begins with a short introduction that helps orient the reader to the story that follows. In any event, this book is disturbing, especially for someone who has no experience with and no empathy for the behavior of drug users. All the way through I despised Kristina—there was really nothing redeeming about her character, nor should there be. She’s an addict, plain and simple, and to her credit Hopkins does not glorify one ounce of Kristina’s behavior. However, what I most admire is the picture Hopkins paints of Kristina’s family, especially Marie the mother, despite the fact that the story is somewhat autobiographical. While Kristina is not at all subdued in the way she criticizes her mom, Marie, deserves it. Hopkins bravely depicts a somewhat self-possessed woman who is more interested in looking good and keeping her new(er) husband Scott than helping her daughter initially, yet, she steps in and takes charge for the good of baby Hunter. Scott, the stepfather, takes a minor position in the whole story—perhaps because he is sick of Kristina’s antics and has written her off. While Kristina may have been predisposed to using drugs (her biological father was an addict after all), her mother did not noticed early on her own child’s need to be noticed, because she was so busy looking at her own life This book, along with Crank, can serve as a clear warning to parents about what can happen when they are too obsessed with themselves and their own relationship to take a good hard look at what their kids are doing. Hindsight may be 20-20, but Hopkins brave telling of this story will serve as a mirror to parents, reminding them that they must be vigilant and not stick their heads in the proverbial sand when it comes to drugs.

From a writing perspective, I found myself (albeit an adult, and not the target demographic for this book) feeling that the poetic form of the book began to get tedious, especially with Hopkins’ overuse of concrete poetry (poems that take shapes to convey additional meaning). This was distracting from the message, and I personally found it annoying. The poetry itself felt much less like poetry in this book—and more like prose just broken into lines as a gimmick. Despite that, I believe the book is important, and should convey to all readers—the sensitive children and their self-possessed parents—or anyone else, about the destructive nature of glass, or any drug, and how society needs to take a much harder look at this sobering American problem.

Reading level/Interest Age:
Like Crank, Glass is recommended for 9th grade and up, and ages 14 and older. Interest age would depend on the maturity of the reader. In general, I would not recommend any of Hopkins’ books to anyone under 16, due to the difficult subject matter. I definitely think this is a book for reluctant readers, as it is an easy read despite its numerous pages.

Information about the Author:
No one should be surprised that Ellen Hopkins started out as a poet, since each of her young adult novels is written in the broken lines of both rhymed and unrhymed verse. Hopkins herself says “that in a previous life, I was a freelance writer, nonfiction author and, then and now, a poet” (Hopkins in Red Room, 2009).

Compared to many other YA authors, there is not much biographical information on Ellen Hopkins outside of her own website, although she is probably one of the more fan-accessible writers today. Married to John Hopkins for a lot of years, Ellen Hopkins has three grown children—two daughters and one son—as well as a twelve-year-old son at home in Carson City, Nevada. Her own webpage contains the most information available about her—especially in the FAQ section, where she answers readers’ questions about her life. She wrote twenty nonfiction books before becoming a YA author, but those titles are not available.

According to her website, http://www.ellenhopkins.com/ , Ms. Hopkins was born in 1955, but was adopted by a much older couple. Her adoptive dad and mom Albert and Valeria Wagner were 72 and 42 years old respectively, at the time of her birth. She grew up in the Palm Springs area surrounded by many of the rich and famous like Elvis Presley and Bob Hope. Her father, a hard-working man with a sixth grade education, made most of his money during World War Two in the steel industry. She had her first child, Jason at 21, followed by Cristal in 1978. Cristal is the real-life Kristina in the books Crank and Glass and the upcoming Fallout, scheduled for release in 2010. Her daughter Kelly is from a “rebound relationship” that happened after her divorce from Jason and Cristal’s father. Hopkins has been writing her entire life, but didn’t begin writing “for money” until the 1990s when she moved to the Carson City area. She met her current husband, John Hopkins around 1985, and they married in 1991. He is her best friend and her “forever love” (Hopkins, 2010).

Curriculum Ties:
Use parts in a poetry unit, and call it “Up for debate: Is what Hopkins writes in this book really considered poetry?”

Booktalking Ideas:
Imagine a mother writing a fictionalized account of her own daughter’s drug problem—and them going on to write a sequel! This book demonstrates how far a beautiful and intelligent teen can fall when drugs are involved. Not only has she sold her body, she’s sold her soul and in a way, her baby—and even gets involve with Eme (the Mexican Mafia). How low would you go to support your habit?

Challenge Issues:
Drug use, Mexican Mafia. How to overcome challenges: discuss the benefits of compelling subject matter for reluctant readers, and the fact that this book provides a great example of how a promising life can so easily go down the drain by using drugs.

Why I Included This Book:
All of Ellen Hopkins’ novels seem to disappear from our library shelves. This one is a sequel to her first. Students who read Crank will be interesting in knowing what has become of Kristina. Perfect for reluctant readers. For higher level readers, it is a quick (one-day) read.

Cover image courtesy of: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Glass/Ellen-Hopkins/9781416940906

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