Hunter, Autumn, and Summer—three of Kristina Snow’s five children—live in different homes, with different guardians and different last names. They share only a predisposition for addiction and a host of troubled feelings toward the mother who barely knows them, a mother who has been riding with the monster, crank, for twenty years. Hunter is nineteen, angry, getting by in college with a job at a radio station, a girlfriend he loves in the only way he knows how, and the occasional party. Autumn doesn’t know about Hunter, Summer, or their two youngest brothers, Donald and David. She lives with her single aunt and alcoholic grandfather. When her aunt gets married, and the only family she’s ever known crumbles, Autumn’s compulsive habits lead her to drink. Summer is the youngest of the three. And to her, family is only abuse at the hands of her father’s girlfriends and a slew of foster parents. As each searches for real love and true family, they find themselves pulled toward the one person who links them together—Kristina, Bree, mother, addict. But it is in each other, and in themselves, that they find the trust, the courage, the hope to break the cycle.
Kristina Georgia Snow is the meth addicted mother of Hunter, Autumn and Summer. Her story is told in the previous books by Ellen Hopkins, Crank and Glass. Although Autumn does not know her mother is Kristina, she is often mentioned in Hunter and Summer's stories; determining their lives without particularly being involved. This druggie mom has already set them on different paths, and because of her addiction, each of her children seem to have a characteristic that she possessed when she was dancing with the "monster."
Hunter Seth Haskins, Kristina’s oldest son, was adopted and raised by Kristina’s mother, Marie Haskins, and has the best life out of all of Kristina’s children. He uses drugs too, but doesn’t dare try meth because he knows how it can affect his life in such a negative way. Hunter, the radio celebrity, is often getting caught in sticky situations because of his small town fame. Throughout the book he is constantly trying not to give into the temptation of cheating on or disappointing his girlfriend. Even though Hunter knows who his mother is, the resemblance between them is slim, and he is desperate to find the person whose chromosomes gave him the looks his mother lacked. In a relationship with his described gorgeous girlfriend, although he cheated on her with Leah he is still known to be in love with her.
Autumn Rose Sheperd, the OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and panic attack having teen, is the only child of Kristina’s that does not know her mother. She knows her father is Trey, and according to the novel she lives with Trey’s father and his sister Cora. For most of the book her Aunt Cora is the only person who grounds her and the only person she can talk to. Her aura isn’t warm enough to make many friends. She lives with her single aunt and alcoholic, prescription drug abusing grandfather. But her aura soon becomes warm and she begins to drink to keep it that way.
Summer Lily Kenwood, the youngest child of Kristina’s during this chapter of her life, is the only child who knows her mother and father. Even so, this foster child has been tossed from home to home and has experienced some of the most terrifying things she possibly could. She is also the one child who keeps in contact with Kristina, and knows more about her background than the others. Although Kristina hasn’t been a part of her life, it’s almost as if she is an exact replica of Kristina through her choices and actions.
Trey, the other meth addict parent of Autumn, was the one Kristina was truly “in love” with and who played a major role in making Kristina's addiction to the monster stronger. He is a jail bird, and flies in and out of prisons causing Autumn’s grandfather to be stressed and not trust Autumn when she goes out, in fear that she may be making the same mistakes Trey made. He was never a big part of Autumn’s life and she has not seen him since she was very little, and even that was a memory she is not fond of.
Grandfather, Trey’s father, takes care of Autumn. He keeps her on a tight leash trying not to make the same mistakes he did with Trey. All the while, it seems like he might have influenced Trey’s druggie behavior, being a pill popper himself.
Marie Haskins, the adoptive mother of Hunter, is Kristina’s own mother. She is a writer and the books she wrote gained Hunter slight popularity in high school after years of being bullied. When Kristina got pregnant and started doing meth again, she was the one who tried to help her, but ended up kicking her out.
Dad (Summer’s), Summer’s drug using biological father, took care of her for most of her life before she was dumped into the foster system. The girlfriend he had when Summer came to live with him is the reason for the permanent scarring of Summer’s psyche, because she molested her. His name is given as Jason Kenwood on the "Fallout Family Tree" of Hopkins's website.
Aunt Cora, Trey's sister, is Autumn's best friend and Aunt. She is the only one for Autumn to confide in and talk to because Autumn doesn't have many friends at school. She winds up getting married to Liam and leaving Autumn behind to make friends her age.
Nikki, Hunter's flawless girlfriend, constantly puts up with Hunter's cheating and drug use. She loves Hunter just as much as he loves her, and tries her hardest to keep him in line.
Kyle, the Summer loving friend of Matt, uses meth and other anonymous drugs to feel better about his also shattered life. His meth usage and smooth charismatic ways cause Summer’s dad to even say that Kyle reminds him of Trey.
Scott Haskins, Kristina's stepfather, is Hunter's adoptive father. He relates to Hunter and Nikki with his wife, and the struggles he has being married to a famous "Martha Stewart" like writer.
Brendan, the biological father of Hunter, is introduced through Montana—as her date to a radio function. Although Hunter had never met his father, when Hunter saw him for the first time he was able to look in his eyes and see how similar Brendan’s eyes were to his own, and knew exactly who he was.
Matt, Summer's ex-boyfriend, is Kyle's best friend.
Bryce, Autumn's first boyfriend, was her key to not being a loner. But she immediately gets attached to him, and has sex with him—Without protection. And she gets pregnant.
Montana, the plastic co worker, is Hunter's work partner for radio show outings.
Micah, the cousin of Liam, flirts with Autumn constantly until a drunken incident goes too far, and his aggressive nature is revealed.
Liam, Aunt Cora’s husband, changes Autumn’s life, by taking her Aunt Cora away from her.
Leah, the groupie, tore Nikki and Hunter apart when she convinced Hunter to cheat on Nikki with her.
Ron, Kristina's current abusive, drug addict boyfriend. Father of Donald and David.
Fallout, like all of Ellen Hopkins' books, is written in stanzas like poems on each page and is told by Kristina's three oldest kids: Hunter, Autumn, and Summer. Johanna Lewis for School Library Journal complimented the "not-quite poetry", noting that it was "as solid as ever, though her visual formations get more mystifying and extraneous with each novel". If the book were turned into a movie it would be rated R. Barbara Johnston for Voice of Youth Advocates praised Hopkins saying that even though it contained F-bombs and some sexual description, the "poetry is the perfect vehicle to deliver the festering emotional beating that drug addiction inflicts on families." Even with all the buzz about
Fallout* being positive, Lewis complained that "the venndiagram of Kristina's baby daddies, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and drug buddies is impossible to follow" and that it may frustrate most readers. Regardless of its difficulty, Johnston wrote that it was a quick read—despite its intimidating page length—and impossible to put down.