Series: Burned #1
Genre: Contemporary, Verse, YA
Publication date: April 1st 2006
by Margaret K. McElderry Books
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.
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