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By Ellen Hopkins

Reviewed by Caitlin Bryan, 16, Valley Alternative Magnet School (Van Nuys)

Crank by Ellen Hopkins is a suspenseful book. Even though it is fiction, Hopkins wrote it based on her daughter’s experience with crank (slang for meth).

One summer 16-year-old Kristina went to visit her dad in Albuquerque for three weeks. While there, Kristina, a shy honors student who is the perfect girl and perfect daughter, became a girl named Bree. She created an alter ego because she wanted to be free from her family, try new things and have fun. As Bree, she met a boy named Adam, and Adam introduced Bree to the monster (crank). She had fun and fell in love with Adam. When Kristina returned home she had to become herself again to fit in with her family. But Bree kept trying to come out and Kristina kept trying to put her back in, and soon Kristina lost herself and became addicted to crank.

As Bree took over, Kristina had to lie to her mom, her stepfather and her friends. She went looking for crank and found new friends, who mostly wanted her to get high with them. Soon her life is out of control and something happens that forces Kristina to leave Bree behind and ask for help from her parents and her friends.

The book was boring in the beginning when it was about her family but when she created her alter ego and tried meth I wanted to know if she was going to become addicted or never want to do it again.

Although I cannot relate to what happened to Kristina, I had all these emotions going through me as I was reading. I was happy when she fell in love with Adam, mad at her parents when they gave her “GUFN” (Grounded Until Further Notice), and I cried during other parts.

I found Crank interesting because of the way the story is written. Crank has no chapters, but is written as a series of poems that all fit together to tell a story. This makes the book easy to read and easy to follow because everything is straightforward. Each poem is descriptive and you feel like you are there watching it happen. Hopkins kept the book very suspenseful—sometimes you don’t know if it’s Kristina or Bree talking and you have to keep reading to understand the whole story.

The author recommends this book to anyone who is 13 and older. I think it’s more for an older audience because Hopkins uses some profanity and writes about Kristina’s experiences with sex and drugs. Because it was based on her daughter’s own life I did feel like the story was realistic. I enjoyed reading it.

Song of the
Buffalo Boy
By Sherry Garland

Reviewed by Daniel Choi, 14, Carmenita MS (Cerritos)

When I was young, I read books, saw movies and read comics about the Vietnam War. Still I did not know much about it, and had questions like whether the Vietnamese hated America from then on, and did Vietnam suffer economic problems after the war? Song of the Buffalo Boy by Sherry Garland answered those questions and more.

This book explains how life was for the Vietnamese after the Vietnam War, like how the American soldiers left their racially mixed children behind in Vietnam. The fictional story focuses on a girl named Loi. Her father was an American, and he went back to America after the war, leaving her behind.

Neighbors made fun of Loi every day, just because her father was an American. Her mother would barely talk about her father. Throughout the book Loi wonders who this mysterious man was, and blames him for all the pain he caused Loi and her mom. Eventually, she tries to learn more about him and is faced with a choice of whether to go to the United States to meet her father or remain in Vietnam and marry her boyfriend.

I always thought that the United States had won this war, but Garland’s book made me question my assumption. Were the Americans really losing? And why would they be in such a hurry to retreat that they would even leave their children behind? Did they lose to the Vietnamese? I think that Garland wanted to tell everyone how seriously people in Vietnam are suffering even now. This is a thrilling and heart-breaking book about a girl searching for answers about her father.

Song of the Buffalo Boy inspired me and taught me that there are other children like Loi affected by war. I think this is a good book that shows why teens in L.A. should care about what happens to others around the world.