Hopkins, Ellen. Fallout. 2010. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN 9781416950097
Even a reader who hasn’t read Crank and Glass, the first two installments in this trilogy by Hopkins, can get an idea of Kristina’s character. She saturates every poem, despite the fact that in this novel, she is never the primary speaker. Fallout has an intricate triple plot, one line for each of Kristina’s oldest children, that eerily reflects itself as the novel continues. As well as the teens’ (and one college student who is more of an adult than a teen) stories mirroring each other, together they create a fun-house warped reflection of Kristina’s teenage years.
While most of the poems are free verse, the actual form varies. Some are concrete, most often forming letters or major symbols, some are non-rhyming (or almost-rhyming) couplets, and some (that I would argue as the most powerful) are scattered across the page, not unlike toys thrown across the floor. These scattered poems almost always deal with explosive anger or consuming confusion.
The final poem shows the children finally realizing what the reader discovered far earlier (and what all three have been avoiding the whole novel), that while none of them are Kristina, all of them are somewhat like Kristina.
This is definitely a novel for high school students or older. It provides a “real life” perspective (or three) to issues that some teens face on a regular basis. I would actually recommend this for a high school’s required health class. While it addresses the issue that meth is bad, it shows less of the effect on the individual taking the meth and more on those who are connected, family, friends, flings, and children, to the user. This change in perspective is different from many drug prevention classes that, as Summer pointed out, bring out statistics and say stay away, but often don’t actually explain what happens to those around the meth user.
AND WHERE I CAME FROM
Is tangled up
in those faces
I see. At least,
I’m pretty sure
it is. No one here
will tell me much
about why I’m here.
Other than the jail
thing, which I get.
But I know I must
have more family
have they never
tried to get hold
of me? It’s all so
when the people
I do have insist
on keeping secrets.
As I mentioned before, most of the poems that look similar to this one are either a character who is angry or confused. The broken format lends itself to the illusion of these two emotions. It would be an interesting exercise to assign the teens three emotions (lonely, confused, and content for example) and have them write poems that not only portray the emotion through words, but also with appearance. For some, happy may be the most traditional looking (or sounding), for others sad may seem more traditional. One thing that should be stressed is that there is no right answer. It might even be worth pulling out e.e.cummings as an example of ignoring traditional form.
Pure Poetry 2010
Kirkus–“Their legacy is not only drug addiction but also the underlying malaise—half unhappiness, half boredom—that set up Kristina for addiction years ago. Parched for connection and excitement, these teens turn to love and sex, and sometimes booze and drugs, because their lives offer no other interest…”
Booklist–” Hopkins shifts the point of view from meth-user Kristina to her three teenage kids; it’s a brilliant tactic that shows just how deeply others are affected by a single person’s addiction. Before it’s over, the three kids Hunter, Autumn, and Summer will experience anger, longing, loneliness, drugs, pregnancy, homelessness, and even, believe it or not, hope.”
Kirkus Review. August 2010. Vol. 78, No. 15. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=5&isbn=9781416950097
Kraus, Daniel. Booklist. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=5&isbn=9781416950097