A Note on Ellen Hopkins’ Novels

I hate this feeling. Like I’m here, but I’m not. Like someone cares. But they don’t. Like I belong somewhere else, anywhere but here, and escape lies just past that snowy window, cool and crisp as the February air. -Ellen Hopkins, Crank

Teenagers on Tumblr continually search for different mediums that deal with mental health. Poetry is a powerful tool that has been effective in expressing and sharing stories about mental health. Author Ellen Hopkins has continually incorporated this into her writing, publishing dozens of verse novels for young adult audiences delving into various mental health illnesses.

Through her novels, Hopkins has created a space for many teenagers to find characters who share similar stories and histories with their own.

Crank, her first novel, is part of a trilogy which follows different characters who deal with drug addictions, drawing inspiration from Hopkins’ own real life experiences with addiction in her family. While the book started a conversation among teenagers, the Crank series has been banned for the vivid descriptions of drug use and sexual themes.

What’s unique about her novels are that they are written as verse novels, where poetical conventions are used in telling a prose story. This unique style provides teenagers with something that is both innovative and unique, telling the story in a new way.

It’s important to note that many of these novels deal with heavy issues, ranging from self harm and eating disorders to suicidal tendencies and suicide. For readers who are intimately familiar with these different illnesses, certain elements of Hopkins’ novels could be triggering.

For insight into Hopkins style and the conventions of verse novels, I’ve included an excerpt from Crank: 

Flirtin’ with the Monster

Life was good
before I
met
the monster
After,
life
was great,
At
least
for a little while.

Just Before The Drop

You know how you
stand and stand and stand
in line for the most
gigantic incredible roller
                                          coaster
you’ve ever dared attempt.

Anticipation swelling,
minute by minute by minute,
you choose to wait even
longer, to ride in the front
                                          car
and finally it’s your turn.

They buckle you in, lock the
safety bar with a jolting clunk!
Hook engaged, the chain jerks
you forward. You start to
                                          climb
Crank-crank-crank.

Cresting the top, time
moves into overtime
as you wait for that scant
hesitation, just before you
                                          drop
You know how you feel
at that instant? Well, that’s
exactly how it feels when you
shake hands with the
monster.

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