Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Reviews: Crank, Glass, and Fallout (and a rant on BBW)

I didn't really participate in Banned Books Week, for several reasons, the main one being that I was way too busy.  Also, I really don't like the way ALA promotes Banned Books Week, or even the label Banned Books Week (See my bottom paragraphs for the reasons why).  But I do want to write my reviews for all three of the books in Ellen Hopkins' Crank series.

Fallout was definitely my favorite, but I loved all three.  I burned through them in about four days and they're all several hundred pages long.  Because they're written in verse the text takes up less of the page.  When you combine that with the engrossing story, it makes for a quick read. 

I think some people may be scared of trying this because they're "poetry" and for a lot of people that's a scary word.  For a lot of people the word poetry = confusing, boring, hard to understand, way too deep, etc.  I actually enjoy poetry, but I would also recommend these books to people who don't.  It reads very much like prose, and all of the author's poetic devices are so easy to understand (See the next to the last paragraph for my note on poetic devices). 

I don't really want to summarize these books too much because there are a million other blog posts where you can read that.  Basically, the story follows a teenage girl who becomes addicted to meth, her descent into addiction, and the lives of her children.  I particularly appreciated the author's emphasis in Fallout on the genetic predisposition toward addiction.  People typicall assume that I don't drink because I'm a Christian, when actually my decision not to drink has nothing to do with my faith and everything to do with a family history of alcoholism.  Like some of the teens shown in the book, I choose to stay away from it because I'm not sure how much it would take for me to become addicted.  It's one of those things that I don't see acknowledged much, and appreciated seeing in these books.

Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me a copy of Fallout!

*Note on the poetry:  Lots of the symbolism in the text revolves around words formed into shapes, or last words of each line making their own phrase.  Nothing terribly hard to do.  And it's not that I'm tearing down the author's work, but it doesn't take much skill to type your words in the shape of a tear drop or a heart.  It's cool, but doesn't necessarily mean the writing is good. Just something to note.

**Note on Banned Books Week: It's not that I disagree with the sentiment behind any of it.  I am 110% opposed to censorship.  But I kind of feel about book "banning" the same way I do about American Christians who claim that we face religious "persecution" in this country.  Making things sound more dramatic than they really are only makes your arguments hold less weight.  Books in America are challenged, removed, and censored but not banned.  That would be what happens in countries like North Korea and China where certain materials are actually illegal to publish, print, or own.  I recently read a blog where a girl wrote that she was glad for BBW because she never knew before that there were books that are illegal in America.  FYI: there aren't.  And confusing people by trying to make the issue sound more important doesn't help.  The issue is important enough on its own without the use of inflammatory language.


  1. I get what you are saying about the term "banned" but when I looked it up in on it said this:

    2 : to prohibit especially by legal means ; also : to prohibit the use, performance, or distribution of

    It further uses an example of term in a sentence:

    The school banned that book for many years.

    So, in all I don't think the term is a misnomer. I would argue that censorship and banning are pretty similar and really the difference is almost just semantics.

    The definition of censoring on is:

    to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable ; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable

    I, like you, did not participate in Banned Books Week but for a different reason. I just dance to the beat of my own drum I guess and I'm typically not a huge joiner (although I've become more of one since starting to blog). I definitely respect your opinion and where you are coming from, but I do think that there is such a thing as a slippery slope. I think people are vocal about things they disagree with in the U.S. because a) they can be vocal and b) because if they aren't vocal the results could lead to oppression.

    I think Albert Einstein said it best:

    The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing...

    So, definitely speak your mind about the subject. I appreciate that. I also appreciate those that are vocal against censorship and banning of books. If no one spoke, we might never know that our "freedom" is no more.

  2. Carin,

    You are most likely right that I'm nit-picking with semantics. And I don't want to come across as being opposed to people speaking out against censorship. I just want people to be able to argue with those who want to censor books.

    Fortunately Dr. Scroggins doesn't seem capable of intelligent argument, but I don't want others like him to have any way of swaying public opinion - particularly when you're dealing with people who hear the word "banned" and think "illegal".

    The blog community has done an amazing job of spreading the word about censorship - I would love to see the ALA, as a professional organization, arm those people with detailed, accurate information about censorship and the differences between challenges, removals, bans, etc.

    Not that I think that book bloggers for the most part don't already understand. Again, it's quite possibly my nit-picking. I tend to be very black and white, if you couldn't tell!

  3. I did spend some time on their website last week and think they are pretty explicit about banned meaning challenged, censored, etc. All of the blogs I looked at used books that were on the challenged and banned lists.

    "Banned" does not equate "illegal" in the strict sense, but banning of books in school systems is alive and well today. Because they are regulations passed by a governing body, people must comply with them unless they are willing to bring suit against the school boards/schools to question the legality of the regulation.

    I definitely know from your statement that you are against censorship. I hope I didn't come off too strong on that. I appreciate what you have to say and since the internet is worldwide, we as bloggers should strive to be clear about what we are trying to say on our blogs. Good conversation here! :)

  4. I didn't participate in Banned Book Week because I didn't quite understand the "banned" part. Most of the books I saw pop up I've seen on shelves and know people who have read them. Hence the confusion, because to me "banned" means you can't get your hands on it anywhere.

    I had no idea the Crank series was written the way you described. I may have to pick it up.

  5. Of course, no one in their right mind is FOR censorship - it's not like somebody would be against banned books, but for censoring them. So, to me, the sentiment behind Banned Books Weeks is far more important than the semantics.

  6. I have really enjoyed Ellen Hopkins' books. I was really hesitant to read them at first, given the verse-style of writing. But, once I started, I was hooked! I have read almost all of them (I have Fallout in my TBR) and really like the stories she tells.

    And if you want to talk censorship - talk to Ellen Hopkins. She knows a lot about it from her own personal experience!