{Review} BURNED by Ellen Hopkins

Happy Book Day Week to BURNED's 
long-anticipated sequel, SMOKE!

Check out last year's review of TILT (the first Ellen Hopkins book I've read; BURNED and SMOKE have been the next two. I have a lot of catching up to do!) and stop back tor my review of SMOKE!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:


When you were little, endure
your parents’ warnings, then wait 
for them to leave the room, 
pry loose protective covers 
and consider inserting some metal 
object into an electrical outlet? 

Did you wonder if for once 
you might light up the room? 

When you were big enough 
to cross the street on your own, 
did you ever wait for a signal, 
hear the frenzied approach 
of a fire truck and feel like 
stepping out in front of it? 

Did you wonder just how far 
that rocket ride might take you? 

When you were almost grown, 
did you ever sit in a bubble bath, 
perspiration pooling, notice a blow dryer plugged 
in within easy reach, and think 
about dropping it into the water? 

Did you wonder if the expected 
rush might somehow fail you? 

And now, do you ever dangle 
your toes over the precipice, 
dare the cliff to crumble, 
defy the frozen deity to suffer 
the sun, thaw feather and bone, 
take wing to fly you home? 

I, Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, do. 

(pg. 1, US paperback edition)

Ellen Hopkins is an author to watch; one I should have been reading before now. I've always overlooked her books, assumed they were all related to CRANK due to their similarly-treated covers. I don't read many books dealing with drugs, etc. I've been suffering under the misconception that BURNED was a part of that series or dealing with other tough issues due to the burned-in look of the cover. I was wrong, completely wrong. I actually liked this book better than last year's first date with Hopkins when I read TILT, perhaps largely due to the singular perspective this time around. I'm also in love with the shapes of the various passages in this book; see below for a video with a close-up look at some of the amazing sentence architecture going on!

Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten is the oldest in a large family. She was raised Mormon, but is now questioning what is and isn't allowed within her faith. Her father and bishop are part of an extreme sect that frowns upon women. When she has her first sex-related dream, she's confused and uncertain. Is she sinning through these dreams? Should she have these wants and desires? When she starts secretly dating a non-Mormon boy at school and messing around, more of these questions are raised. When her dad discovers what she's doing, he ships her off to his sister in Nevada for the summer as punishment. But how can freedom be punishment? Pattyn finally finds a place where she belongs with her aunt. She struggles with the conflicting emotions of the faith and "rules" she was taught to believe in her entire life and the fact that she wants more for herself. When she meets Ethan, she learns the meaning of love and life. But how can she be happy with her abusive, alcoholic, controlling father forever looming in the background threatening to destroy everything and anyone she's ever cared for?

BURNED deals with many tough issues. As with all of Hopkins' novels, it won't be for everyone due to all of the gritty topics introduced throughout the book such as abusive families, religions overstepping boundaries, teen sex, etc. Her books are more about life and all its ups and downs. There is no such thing as happily ever after, and she doesn't pretend there is. The view on religion is one of an extreme sect of Mormons, not the group as a whole, which can be misleading unless you read it as such, which I personally did. Religion isn't the centerpiece of the novel, however. This could have been any religion to the extreme and Pattyn would have still had these issues. Corruption and sexism can appear anywhere. The novel is more about the fact that Pattyn's father is an alcoholic with his own demons. He beats her mother, who has never given him sons, only daughters. He has never truly loved Pattyn, in her opinion, but only viewed her as his personal property.  As Pattyn questions her faith, she doesn't necessarily know that her upbringing was extreme. She's trying to balance what she knows and what she wants, and living with her aunt is the best thing that could have ever happened to her. Her relationship with Ethan explores the highs and lows of first love, and the novel is more about Pattyn and her own evolution as she explores her identity than anything else. The end of the novel is jaw-dropping, and makes me glad that Hopkins wrote a sequel...and that I didn't have to wait seven years to read it like everyone else! I was able to dive right in and see what has become of Pattyn. I'm glad Hopkins made the decision to continue her story, though the ending without a sequel is very open-ended and up for interpretation in a brilliant, stunning way of its own.

I said this last year, too: I've never been super into verse novels, but the cadence of Hopkins' writing is easy to fall into and become immersed in. You don't even realize how different the writing style is after a while, because you still get the whole story. You focus more on the beautiful sentences and the gorgeous structure of them. It's like artwork with words, gorgeous to look at and inhale. Hopkins' writing has a very literary, elevated feel to it, and makes me feel smarter as I read because it challenges my brain a little more than everything else out there. And I like that!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I'm a fan of the treatment used for this cover. It seriously looks like someone has burned letters into the book and the jacket...which is absolutely appropriate, since the book is actually called BURNED.  There's also a scene in the book involving fire, so it works on a story note, too. There's also a play on words going on, because poor Pattyn has been burned by the lot she's been cast in life--multiple times at that.

Of the three books I've read by Hopkins, SMOKE has my favorite visuals when it comes to verse. For example, one passage about sadness looks like tears. Tears!  I also like the way words line up and form two stories at times. I'm sure this is more due to Hopkins than anything else, but the interior design team also had to get this all together!

Take a look at the gorgeous design of both the interior and the exterior. Ellen Hopkins and her crew have some gorgeous looking passages:

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Ellen Hopkins
Release Date: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
Received: Purchased

I do know things really began to spin out of control after my first sex dream. 

It all started with a dream. Nothing exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind of dream that most teen girls experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten is not like most teen girls. Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, a simple dream may not be exactly a sin, but it could be the first step toward hell and eternal damnation. 

This dream is a first step for Pattyn. But is it to hell or to a better life? For the first time Pattyn starts asking questions. Questions seemingly without answers -- about God, a woman's role, sex, love -- mostly love. What is it? Where is it? Will she ever experience it? Is she deserving of it? 

It's with a real boy that Pattyn gets into real trouble. After Pattyn's father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control until Pattyn ends up suspended from school and sent to live with an aunt she doesn't know. 

Pattyn is supposed to find salvation and redemption during her exile to the wilds of rural Nevada. Yet what she finds instead is love and acceptance. And for the first time she feels worthy of both -- until she realizes her old demons will not let her go. Pattyn begins down a path that will lead her to a hell -- a hell that may not be the one she learned about in sacrament meetings, but it is hell all the same. 

In this riveting and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride. From the highs of true love to the lows of abuse, Pattyn's story will have readers engrossed until the very last word.