Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Burned by Ellen Hopkins

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Review: Burned by Ellen HopkinsBurned by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Burned #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on April 1st 2006
Genres: Contemporary, Verse, YA
Buy on Amazon

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.

I thought I had been a good blogger when I went out and bought the first book in each of Ellen Hopkins series. I even covered all my bases and bought her standalones as well. Well now look at me sitting here kicking myself because I’ve finished Burned and I don’t have the sequel to jump into immediately. Burned is the heartbreaking tale of Pattyn Von Stratten, a young girl raised in a strict mormon household who begins to question the way that her family lives and they way that her father treats all of the women in his life.

I’m not usually a fan of books that deal heavily with religion, but I always appreciate when a character is questioning the way that they have been brought up. Pattyn was a perfect example of this. She has grown up in a strict mormon household where her mother is essentially a baby maker, constantly at work trying to provide a son for her husband. Her father has a drinking problem and on the nights that he hits his bottle of Johnny all the girls in the house walk on pins and needles just waiting for his monster to come out and lay into their mom. Pattyn realizes that she doesn’t want to grow up and be in a situation like her mother’s. She wants to be strong, she wants to be independent and she wants to live life on her own terms, not her husbands.

Hopkins’ bare bones, straight to the point writing style completely immersed me in Pattyn’s life. Her emotions and frustrations with life were wholly palpable and I was right there with her at every moment in this story. As she tastes freedom when she goes to live with her Aunt J for the summer I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and when she was forced back to her parents home I felt like the walls were once again closing in on me. That’s a true sign of skill in an author and something that I look for in every single novel that I read. The use of verse is once again spot on and for me Hopkins’ take on the style is really the benchmark for any novels told in this way. She consistently manages to create characters that are deeply flawed, that I can relate to in some way or another and she forges relationships that are just as complex as the characters immersed in them.

The one weak point that I could mention about this novel is the swiftness with which Ethan and Pattyn’s relationship grows. It may have only felt this way because of the use of verse which, to me, makes any novel feel like it is told in fast forward, but it didn’t seem like that much time had passed. Other than that I think the romance was incredibly sweet and I was a huge fan of Ethan and of Pattyn when she was with him. He brought out a confidence in her that she didn’t know was there and he always strived to be a true gentleman. Just as complex as the romance at the forefront of the novel was Pattyn’s rocky relationship with her family. She resented her mother’s weakness and though she wanted to love her father she couldn’t because of the monster that was inside him. As her father’s beatings start extending to her sisters she is torn between wanting to continue living the free life she has found with her Aunt J and wanting to go back and stand up for her siblings.

I really can’t recommend Hopkins’ work more highly, anyone who loves contemporary stories is sure to fall in love with her stories. I also want to make a point of saying here that even if you are scared of verse (as I once was) please venture out of your comfort zone and give it a try, you might just find that it works for you as it does me.


4 Hot Espressos

18 Responses to “Review: Burned by Ellen Hopkins”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I haven’t read anything by Ellen Hopkins, but I’ve heard great things about her writing style. Now you make me want to read this just from your review. I’m not a fan of religion in books either, but it seems like it’s handled perfectly in Burned. Ellen Hopkins must be a fabulous author if she managed to make you connect to her main character so strongly.
    Lovely review, Jenni. I’ll be sure to check something by her in the future.

  2. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    For some reason I’ve always been scared of reading Ellen Hopkins’ books. When I first heard of her books I was in my Twilight-happily-ever-after phase and because I’ve heard that her books were dark I didn’t give them a chance. I think I’m ready now to give them a try. This was the push I needed. Thanks for the review Jenni!

  3. Maya

    I really like the sound of this one! Great premise – I love books about the main character challenging the way s/he was bought up, too. Lovely review 🙂

  4. Shayna - Shayna Varadeaux Books & Reviews

    I read this awhile back and I still haven’t read it’s sequel. I loved Burned it was so gritty. I had never read anything like Ellen Hopkins before I read Crank and I fell in love although I have never been able to read any other “verse” and like it.
    Ellen Hopkins has a way of dragging you into the story and her troubled subjects always grab me. I have to get the next book, I have run across it in the book stores every now and again since it came out and I swipe my hand over the cover longingly lol!

    I think it may be time to buy.

    Great review Jenni!

  5. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I’ve heard that Ellen Hopkins is an insanely talented author and after reading your review I’m not doubting it. Pattyn’s journey and character sounds so well-developed, especially the fact that she starts questioning everything she knows about her upbringing. I also love those kinds of books even though I haven’t read many of them because there’s so much room to expand on the topic. Glad that you loved this one, Jenni! Fantastic review <33

  6. Melliane

    It’s true that religion books are delicate and well some are well done and sometimes it’s a little more difficult. I don’t remember this author,and you have one of each her series? I should try to see what they are. This one looks really good though, I’m glad it was a great surprise for you.

  7. Tanja

    I have heard of this author and her stories. They all seem appealing to me. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one so much despite it having religion elements. I always avoid them. Great review, Jenni 🙂

  8. ShootingStarsMag

    I’ve only read one book by Ellen, but I really want to check out more. I like verse novels. I think they show a lot of emotion and allow you to connect to characters. so glad that you loved this one!

  9. Christianna

    I haven’t read any verse novels, but I’ve heard that she’s great and I’m glad that you fully enjoyed this one. It sounds like it deals with a lot of really deep issues, but that it does it in a really smart way! Great review!

  10. Candace

    I have only read one of hers and it was about drug use and it hit too close to home for me. This one sounds like it might work better for me because I can relate, but it won’t have me spiraling into horrible memories. It sounds great!

  11. Lauren

    I haven’t read Burned yet, but I need to! I am constantly amazed at how powerful and emotional the stories Hopkins tells can be through verse. It’s pretty astonishing to me every time I read her. Lovely review!

  12. Bonnie

    I never really noticed the swiftness of their relationship, but I think like you said I attributed it to the verse making things seem like they’re at a faster speed. Plus I think Pattyn was looking for someone to latch onto, desperate for some affection? This was such a heartbreaker. Looking forward to seeing what you think of Smoke. I listened to it on audio and was super disappointed. Think I might have to try a re-read in print. 🙂 Great review, Jenni!

  13. Pili

    I haven’t read anything in verse or anything by Ellen Hopkins yet, and though this sounds like something that would enrage me like no other (I have a hard time not feeling stabby against heavily religious stuff), I think I really need to read some of her books soon!

  14. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I keep almost getting the audiobook of this from my library, but keep putting it off due to the religion. I am glad to know that it worked for this book. I think that I will have to stop putting this off and get to it soon. Great review!!