School Library Journal
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Gr 9 Up-Three teens tell their stories, in free verse, from a psychiatric hospital after failed suicide attempts. Their lives unfold in alternating chapters, revealing emotionally scarred family relationships. An absent father, a bipolar mother, and a secret abortion have caused Vanessa to slash her wrists. As a compulsive cutter, she hides a paper clip to dig into her skin. Tony's drug overdose was triggered by an addiction in which he exchanged sex for money. Abused as a child, he is confused about his sexuality. Connor is the son of rich, controlling parents, and he survives a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a doomed affair with a female teacher. Initially, the narrators are inwardly focused, having arrived at "level zero," the beginning of their treatment. As they become acquainted with one another, the story, told in spare verse and colorful imagery, becomes more plot-driven and filled with witty dialogue. Both boys value Vanessa's friendship and there is an inkling of competition for her affection, although she assumes that Tony is gay. During a wilderness camping trip with other patients and staff, which would graduate the trio to the final level of treatment, it becomes apparent that one of them is mentally backsliding at the thought of returning home and has stopped taking meds. The consequences are played out, leaving the others to grapple with an additional loss and a newfound appreciation for life. Mature fans of the verse format will devour this hefty problem novel.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Hopkins (Crank) weaves together the story of three troubled teens locked up in a psychological facility after suicide attempts, once again writing in artful free verse. Each character is full-bodied and distinct. Conner is a wealthy overachiever who had an affair with a teacher; Tony, who thinks he is gay, was locked up in juvenile detention center for years after killing his mother's child-molesting boyfriend; Vanessa is a manic-depressive who cuts herself to "hush the demons/ shrieking inside my brain." All three have attempted suicide. As they begin to open up to their counselor-and each other-they reveal an almost unbelievable amount of grittiness in their backgrounds. Vanessa, for example, found her own mother dying after an overdose and did not call for an ambulance, and had a boyfriend who "wouldn't even hold/ my hand" while she was waiting to have an abortion. But readers will find themselves invested in the characters by the time the three head to their outdoor challenge-the final piece of their program-and can finally divulge their darkest secrets to one another (Tony and Vanessa even form an unexpected romance). This is a thick book, but the free verse makes for a fast read. By book's end, readers may well feel the effects of each protagonist's final choice. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved