by Ellen Hopkins
Honestly, I have been avoiding reading this book since it came out. I know how controversial it is, and I know how much kids love it and that it never stays on the shelf for more than about a day. In fact, I had to ILL request it from Eagle Valley just to get a copy to read. There are two reasons that I have been avoiding reading this book: first, I really don’t like books written in verse. I’ve never been much of a poetry person, so I always assumed I’d hate books written in verse. Second, I’m pretty much the quintessential good girl and have zero desire to do or try drugs (thank you Nancy Reagan, for teaching me to give hugs not drugs).
Now that I’ve read the book, I will say that I’m glad I read it. I can see the appeal in the book and in the format. And I do believe that the format of the book enhances the reading experience. Though I am a self-proclaimed goody two-shoes and have never been on drugs, I did consult an acquaintance that has dabbled in the world of illegal substances and asked him to read some of the book. He said that being under the influence was sometimes like the writing in the book – somewhat choppy and all over the place. And did anyone else notice the hidden messages in some of the poems? In many of the entries, the words that are set apart tell their own little story. Take, for example the entry “GUFN Again”. The words set apart on the left side read “I didn’t belong to my mom anymore”. Another example is “I Went Home”. Down the right side reads “Scott insisted, Chase invited, Brendan inflated, Leigh instigated, Mom finally noticed, Bree swore”.
Though, as I said before, I’m glad I read the book, I cannot say that I enjoyed it. Not only did I start dreaming weird, verse-like dreams about drugs, the book left me with a very icky feeling every time I picked it up. I suppose that’s a good thing –Hopkins doesn’t glamorize the drug (or glamorizes it as little as she can) in order to show the truth about drugs to readers. And I am the one who is very much against happy endings that are unrealistic, so the ending – which leads readers to believe that Kristina/Bree is/was unable to stay away from meth after her son was born – made me appreciate the book more. But I found it really difficult to relate to Kristina/Bree. When she talked about her life pre-drugs, she didn’t make it sound terrible or horrible, so I have trouble understanding how she was so willing to throw it all away. But then again, I suppose that’s one of the risks of drugs that kids should think about/know about before they even try it once. In any case, this book will not go on my list of favorite reads ever.
When it comes to books in verse, I’m not sure this book would be as effective if it weren’t written in verse. However, I was a little afraid that I’d associate all books written in verse with this book, so I read Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ronald Koertge (Candlewick Press, 2003) and I actually liked it. So I promise I won’t give up on books written in verse completely. However, I probably won’t read anymore Hopkins books…sorry.