Ellen Hopkins’s Fallout
is the third book in the Crank
series; it focuses on Kristina’s three children who are trying to deal with the aftermath of Kristina’s addiction to drugs. Hunter, a college student who has a girlfriend and a great job, struggles with drug abuse himself. He also cheats on his girlfriend. Autumn’s struggle is defined by her OCD and panic attacks. Summer’s life has been marked by stays in foster homes; she was abused by both her foster father and her biological father’s girlfriend. This novel is about how these three children find themselves and their own recovery, together.
Hunter is often bothered by his eyes, which look just like the eyes of his biological father. Kristina asserts that Hunter’s father raped her, leaving her pregnant with him. This leaves Hunter uncertain about his own identity since he does not know his father. Autumn feels invisible at school until she meets Bryce. Summer, living in another foster home, finds daily joy only in her relationship with her boyfriend, Matt. Matt isn’t the only one interested in her romantically though; Summer notices that Kyle, Matt’s best friend, is also interested in her.
Meanwhile, Hunter’s girlfriend, Nikki, is facing difficulties of her own. Her parents tell her that they’re divorcing; her father has had an affair. This breach of trust mirrors Hunter’s infidelity. He wants to support her as she’s going through this difficult time, but at the same time, he envies her. His envy, based on the fact that at least Nikki knows who her father is, is a hurdle to his helping her. Autumn and Bryce hang out more, and when he declares his intentions, she’s shocked. Summer discovers that one of her foster sisters is using crank, leading her to sexually abuse another of their foster sisters. She decides to stand up against the sexual abuse, but the results are not what she imagined.
Frustrated by his inability to provide support for Nikki, and her knowledge of who her father is, Hunter cheats on her. Even though he hopes he’ll get away with cheating, he starts to feel racked by guilt. Autumn takes a step toward intimacy with Bryce; when they sleep together, she secretly harbors the hope that she’ll become pregnant. Autumn’s relationship with her aunt is about to drastically change as her aunt prepares to marry. Summer is taken out of foster care and given back into the care of her father. This leaves her feeling lonely, so she turns to Kyle. The only problem with that is that Kyle is using drugs. However, she feels he really understands her.
Hunter finally meets his biological father, Brendan. Even though he raped Kristina, he is a good man, Hunter decides. He determines that it was the crank that led his father to rape Kristina. Since then, Brendan has cleaned up his life. He’s sober and has served in the military, earning an honorable record. Hunter learns from his father’s transformation that it is indeed possible to overcome the legacy of Kristina’s crank addiction. Autumn also meets her father, and for the first time, she decides she wants to meet Kristina as well, so she plans a road trip to Nevada to find her. Summer’s father drives drunk and gets caught, so she’s sent into another foster situation. This foster home would take her miles away from Kyle, so they decide to run away together.
After Hunter finds equilibrium with his father, he makes amends to Nikki for failing her as her boyfriend. At Christmas, Hunter confronts his mother, saying everything he’s kept bottled up for so long. Autumn and her father arrive, and she discovers the heart of her anxiety issues; that discovery helps her begin to heal. Finally, Summer connects with her siblings, finding in Autumn the sister she never had but always wanted. She begins to heal from the baggage that comes with being Kristina’s daughter.
Family is a prominent theme in Fallout
, particularly the bond between siblings. This is shown most evidently through Summer’s attempts to find connections among her foster sisters and her connection with Autumn by the end of the novel. It’s through their connection as siblings that Hunter, Autumn, and Summer are ultimately able to begin the path toward healing. Their relationships with their parents are less cut and dry. Hunter struggles with his identity, another important theme, until he meets his father. Summer is abused by her foster father and her father’s sister, leaving her untrusting of parents. All three children deal with the aftermath of having a mother who is addicted to crank.
The two novels that precede this one in the series are Crank
. Hopkins won the Silver Pen Award and is a member of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.