{Review} SMOKE by Ellen Hopkins

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 my review of BURNED, the prequel to SMOKE!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten 
Some Things 

You can’t take back, no 
matter how much you wish 
you could. No matter how 
hard you pray to 
all-powerful miracle maker. 
Some supposed God of Love. 
One you struggle to believe 
exists, because if he did, 
wouldn’t be so out of control, 
and you wouldn’t be sucked dry 
of love and left to be crushed 
like old brittle bones that 
easily ground into dust. 
Hindsight is useless 
when looking back over 
your shoulder at deeds 
(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

It's impossible to talk about SMOKE without revealing BURNED spoilers. If you have yet to read BURNED, check out this review instead! (That said, SMOKE is readable without reading BURNED. You don't have to in order to get anything...but you may want to!)

After the crazy intensity that came with the ending of BURNED, who didn't immediately want to know what happened to Pattyn and her family? Pattyn was completely off her rocker, and she could have done anything. I had thoughts on what she might do with the wording of the final pages, which were left very open, but she must have calmed down. None of that happened. In the first few pages of SMOKE, however, we discover that Pattyn does use her gun--but not on everyone involved in the events leading up to her heartache. Instead, she uses it to save her sister Jackie when their dad is using his fists in a drunken rage.

SMOKE is told from two POVs, Pattyn's and Jackie's. Pattyn is on the run after killing her father, and hides out with a family that has immigrated to the US and is living without proper paperwork, despite having been here for over a decade. She is disguised as their cousin and given a job at a local estate as a maid. The family she works for has an out-of-control teenage daughter determined to raise hell--never a good thing for an incognito fugitive. Back home, Jackie is trying to repiece her life together. She hates the fact that a local boy, Caleb raped her and that her father thought she was a whore "asking" for it, resulting in the beating that lead to his death. She struggles to deal with her emotions from that night and all that she can and can't remember. She hates the fact that her mother won't support her and starts inviting Caleb and his father into their home to help rebuild their lives. She hates being around Caleb and seeing him interact with her younger sisters. Only the unfurling of first love in her own life can save and heal her.

I think it's important to see two perspectives in SMOKE. We get to see the aftermath from both sides. It's intriguing to see the new life Pattyn makes for herself and the way she gradually heals. Time moves on. I also liked the inclusion of a family of immigrants, which include children born in the USA, and the struggles and prejudices they faced. There are so many hate crimes in the world, and Hopkins worked to open our eyes to some of them in her new book. I was also glad to see the world through Jackie's eyes, to see what she thought of Pattyn and her homelife. While the girls have a lot of differences, they also have quite a few similarities, and the story on Jackie's side felt fresh, and not repeated. Jackie is going through her own personal hell, and it's great to see the way she grows up and evolves in a positive direction throughout the novel. I'm a fan of all the new characters we met in SMOKE and became invested in many more lives than just Pattyn's. This novel doesn't have the same focus on religion as its predecessor, which will appeal to many readers who many have been turned off by that aspect. In fact, it's more about moving on from horrible events in our lives, and deals with events such as hate crimes that are often glossed over in other books. If you weren't a fan of BURNED, you may still want to give SMOKE a chance. New readers won't know Pattyn's previous struggle, and while it makes them more emotionally attached to Pattyn and her plight, they don't necessarily need to, either. SMOKE stands on its own as a compelling read.

As I've said before, 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 love the gritty treatment applied to this cover (and all Hopkins' others, too). I like the coloring, the way it looks like smoke and ash and fire. It's the aftermath...an appropriate look for a sequel, right?

I also like the way Pattyn's journal entries in the interior match the cover. I love when interiors link up!

Here's a look at the cover of SMOKE in more detail, as well as its predecessor BURNED:

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: SMOKE
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
Received: For Review

Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?


  1. The only book I've ever read by Ellen Hopkins was Perfect! I enjoyed it so much and it even made me cry! I want to check out this series now! Thanks for sharing!

    -Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    1. I haven't read that one yet. Maybe it will be next! That one has a sequel, too, right? Maybe...? I have definitely become a Hopkins fan!

    2. Perfect is a companion novel to impulse. It follows the families of the kids in impulse. However if you're a little older I suggested reading triangles and then tilt. They were by far my favorites. And yes they are connected


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