…on Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Posted October 12, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 27 Comments

Burned by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Burned #1
Published by Margaret K. Elderberry Books/ Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: March 28, 2006
532 Pages
Source:  Library

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.(summary from Goodreads)

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

My Thoughts:  Even though you all know me as the one that has been absolutely fearful of issue contemporary books for so long, that has never applied to the books of the amazing Ellen Hopkins. I’ve been a hardcore fan of hers since I read my first Hopkins book and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

With the possibility of actually laying eyes on Ellen Hopkins looming in my very near future, I picked up Burned and decided to read it. I had heard it would be controversial. Good gracious, you guys. Burned was exactly what I expected it to be. Hardcore and then some. I ate it up and loved it. And I can’t wait for Burned #2 to come out in Fall 2013.

The first thing you need to know is this:
I freaking love Ellen Hopkins. Why?
Because she has the guts to write what she wants to.
We have this girl – Pattyn – who is raised in the strictest of the strict super-religious families. Her father is the worst of the worst and her mother basically takes everything her father dishes out. Meaning: her father is an abusive alcoholic and her mother turns an eye on the abuse and even takes some of it herself. They are a part of a strict church in their area of Nevada, and the church is aware of the problem. The church is aware of the problem, you guys. In this case, the church is aware of the problem – and they do nothing to help. By nothing, I mean they continue to instruct Pattyn on the proper way for a female to act, like only learning to drive if her future husband thinks she should know, only having money if her husband gives her some, and having as many babies as her husband can give her. Are y’all catching what I’m saying? It’s not a pretty situation.*

So, as Pattyn gets older, she starts to notice boys. Some of the boys are nice-looking. And Pattyn starts to have THE FEELINGS. You know the ones I’m talking about. In this family/church community, these feelings are dirty, wrong, disgusting, sinful sinful sinful. Pattyn shouldn’t be thinking about boys, much less talking to them or smiling at them, or meeting up with them in the fields way out beyond her house. Certainly not kissing them. Or doing anything else with them. Cause that would be wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad Pattyn!

Poor Pattyn is confused, really. Because none of the other kids act like this stuff is really all that wrong. Kissing? Really? Everyone does it! The books Pattyn is reading (snuck to her by her librarian, who believes she should be exposed to all types of literature and have a free mind) embrace and encourage love and romance. So what’s the big deal? When Pattyn genuinely asks an innocent question to her youth leader, it sets big things in motion – eventually Pattyn ends up removed from her home and living with her Aunt J on a ranch many miles away (as if that’s punishment) and left to fend for herself experience life outside the confines of such a strict environment. In other words, Pattyn can breathe for the first time, and maybe also live without fear. It’s sort of wonderful. 

Pattyn ends up loving it out there with her Aunt J. She feels accepted and loved for the first time in her life, and she may even find love too.

The second thing you need to know is this:
Hmm, Ellen Hopkins isn’t going to let us off that easily.
She’s gonna TELL US that story. She won’t spare the details.
At the end, we may even be all clinchy and exhausted. 
I don’t really need to tell you all about Ellen Hopkins and how she writes and how she has been inspired and such. Hopkins writes from a place of experience (like in Crank) and she holds nothing back. She tackles stuff I wouldn’t even imagine would be in a YA book. She’s been challenged and banned like crazy, but people relate to her, and she just keeps on writing.   

When you start to read Burned, you are immediately in Pattyn’s head. You get her thoughts, her innocence, and the sincere curiosity of all things that accompany someone that is her age. Pattyn isn’t wrong for being young and innocent and not knowing things. She isn’t wrong for asking questions – but she is made to feel this way by people she should be able to trust. She struggles in her thoughts, in her actions, and this is made clear in her secret journal, which is shared with us. Pattyn has very valid feelings and is a super solid character. Unfortunately, her family members are all solid characters too, which make it hard to read at times. Well, maybe not as hard to read as angering. Hopkins made me have this wonderful righteous anger at several times throughout the book, and sometimes it feels so good to get stirred up like that. No other writer makes me feel quite the same way. 

Why spend my time angry or upset when I’m reading a book? I hope for the best for Pattyn because Ellen Hopkins made me feel so connected to her and attached to her. And the story isn’t angering the entire way through – only when certain characters are on the pages or are doing certain things. There is plenty of this novel that is redeeming, that is hopeful. It IS a roller coaster, though. Such is a Hopkins book or series. I love it. 

The third thing you need to know is this: 
Verse Novel! YAY!!
(And Ellen Hopkins has the PRETTIEST verse. Seriously.)

Y’all know I love the verse. It clears away all of the extra words and says LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.

In Burned, there are no wasted words. There is certainly beautiful language, but every word is in its place, in its time. There is no fluffy language, no filler. No clouds or unicorns or whipped cream with cherries. There is a straight story with straight emotions and that is all. No un-needed details. No unnecessary dialogue or description. The words on the page are the words you need to know. Period.

To take it a step further, I’ve read verse (and loved it) that was fairly standard in form. But Ellen Hopkins takes it further by making it LOOK different on every page. Every page has a header – or title, maybe? – as if every single page is its own little teeny tiny poem. And every page has an arrangement. For a person that LOVES detailing, like me, this is awesome. Not necessary, just awesome.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins is another of her verse novels that I absolutely loved. As expected, I had strong reactions to it, and my reactions were all over the place. I felt anger that ranged from righteous anger to a desire to fling my book across the room to a desire to punch her father, but I also felt happiness and hope mixed up in there. Ellen Hopkins always makes me feel all types of feelings that I expect to feel and sometimes emotions I don’t quite expect to feel when I read her books, and this is just another of the things I love about her as an author. She challenges me as a reader. 

*Burned is, I would assume, controversial. I haven’t read any other thoughts on it yet (except for one blog post that was positive) but I can imagine that people will feel all over the place on this one. Anytime you have a religious community that is portrayed in a negative way, people can tend to become upset. In this book, the religious community portrayed by Hopkins is presumably fictional but based on a real group out in Nevada. There are indeed overly strict religious groups and families in this world and in this country; this is fact. This girl, this character, was treated poorly and unable to reach out to her church family and this is unfortunate. This is not an attack on a particular group, these are details that appear in this book and they are quite effective in making the story what it is. This was one of the tougher parts to read for me because I know plenty about strict religious “stuff” and don’t like it at all. I do think it was done brilliantly, though. The marriage of the religious dynamic and the family dynamic (the church + the family and how the father used the church to justify his behaviors) was great in this story and I am jumpy-up-and-down to read the next book when it comes out later in 2013. 

These characters are amazing. They are full and deep and remarkable. You can get a sense of who each of them are even with the sparse language and minimal words. This is a testament to how talented this author is, that she is able to choose her words well and set her story well and develop her characters on such few words and short lines. I know exactly all about Pattyn, Aunt J, Ethan, Pattyn’s father (horrid man), her mother (doormat), and the younger sisters Pattyn left behind when she went to her aunt’s ranch. Unfortunately, I can tell you all about the people of the church as well. The setting – also amazing. I could visualize it probably even better than if the book was regular prose. 

If you are a fan of verse novels, or if you are a fan of Ellen Hopkins, this is an incredible book. It’s a toss-up between Burned and Triangles for which is my favorite. I loved this one that much. This story just really got to me and took me on a ride, which I totally expected and loved. I was, as I mentioned above, all clinchy and exhausted when I was finished with it, and it was glorious. 

I recommend Burned for fans of verse, Ellen Hopkins, YA contemporary with issues, or books with great settings. There IS plenty of alcoholism and abuse in it, though, so if these issues may be triggers for you, you might want to seek out other verse or Ellen Hopkins or issues books. 

Burned will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary with Issues
Books with Fantastic Settings
Romance: slow developing, no triangle
Fantastic Characterization

**Young Readers! Use your head!
Make sure you’re mature enough for this one!**

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

is currently available for purchase. 

Have you read BURNED or
other Ellen Hopkins books?
What did you think?

I’ve probably asked before, but what are some of your favorite
verse novels? I’m always looking for more!


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


27 responses to “…on Burned by Ellen Hopkins

  1. Asheley you are SUCH an amazing writer, really. Thought you should know that.

    Okay. I love issue books. The darker the better. You know I love contemporary books. And although I haven't read many, I do enjoy verse novels. And I am not one to shy away form controversial subjects and authors. In fact, just the opposite. It actually intrigues me and makes me want to read them more.

    But I have NEVER read anything by Ellen Hopkins (I KNOW.) I hear great things about her books, and as noted she focuses on things I love to read about, but for some reason I just haven't picked one up. Maybe because I wasn't sure where to start.

    I love how you said every word counts, that there is no filler or wasted words. THOSE are the type books I want to read. And I love that you pointed out the dynamics between church and family. That is something that interests me as well.

    I'm so glad to read this review. Maybe Burned is a good starting point for someone like me who hasn't read anything by this author.

    • I agree with Heather. Asheley, you are a great writer. So good at breaking down your thoughts on the books you read! And happy to see you back.

    • Thanks gals!! Heather, all of her books are AMAZING but given your interests, Burned is a FANTASTIC place for you to start. Absolutely amazing. This book was just incredible. These thoughts that I muddled through just don't do the book justice.

      I really gravitate towards the books that tends to mix the church/family dynamics too. Just PLEASE read this one and let me know what you think. It's SO great. And then you'll be like me and have to read all of her books too. She has such a crazy-good gift for writing these dark but amazing verse books.

      Read Burned first. Please.

  2. I also get nervous by heavy issue books, but I often tend to find them the most rewarding reads. And I haven't read anything by Ellen Hopkins either, but this review definitely makes me want to change that! I am fascinated by verse writers ability to convey so much depth in spare language. As horrible as they are, I know that church communities like this still exist, unfortunately. Did you say this is going to be a series?

    We've talked about this, but the only verse novel I've read is Sold by Patricia McCormick. And it was fantastic, but also really tough to read.

    • Okay, Lauren, all of E Hopkins' books are heavy issue books. Like, not one issue but many within each book. But somehow she makes it something that is manageable and okay. She is a little "tougher" than other verse books, meaning that she doesn't sugar-coat anything – if the scene isn't pretty, she doesn't write it pretty. But that is how life is, and that is what I appreciate from her. She is absolutely one of my favorite authors and I cannot get enough. I was reading her books even before I would DARE pick up contemporary or even issue books, which I find quite hilarious, given these are definitely issue-heavy. But they are amazing, all of them.

      I didn't realize this would be a series until I finished. I tend to like to go into these books without knowing much about them because they're all crazy wild rides. With the way this ended (with me holding my breath!) I can see possibly how she may go in a certain direction but WOW I can't wait to see exactly what she does with it. HOWEVER, it isn't a cliffhanger and I feel completely find with it the way it ended. In fact, if I don't read the next book (yeah, right) it will be okay.

      I totally have Sold on my list thru the other county library that I use to read on my Kindle. My library doesn't have it. I think about that one all the time and can't wait to read it! Thanks again for that recommendation!

  3. I picked up this book a few times from where it sat at the end of our bed and thumbed through it. I read the cover, and you'd given me a brief synopsis of it that left me wondering why in the world anyone would want to read such a Debbie Downer of a book.

    But, BUT, reading your review here I'm very much intrigued by the format of the book, the weight of the story, and the boldness of it. You've done a great job at emphasizing the honesty of the story and the value in pulling no punches. Makes me want to read for the experience of it and to see what it's all about. That's impressive.

  4. HOLY SHIZZZZ Asheley way to fricken completely sell me on Burned. I am such a big fricken fan of verse books and I like what I've read of Hopkins THEN you mention the religious aspect and BOOM I AM HOOKED LIKE A FISH. I cannot even.

    I'm going to have to order this one at some point. Seriously, I enjoy reading about every single thing you mentioned in this review, right down to the righteous anger.

    • April, you will love this book. Like, it's unbelievable. The religious aspect and how they act to this hurting girl will have you yelling at the pages – and I know you enjoy that type of subject matter like me and stuff – so, yeah, it is so so great. Plus Pattyn is such a great character, and Aunt J. And I could talk on this book forever. This is just ONE of the awesome Ellen H. books out there. I am such a die-hard fan. But this book is one of her best.

      Please please please read it and then let me know what you thought of it. Such incredible contemporary YA that needs to be pushed for people to read. So amazing.

  5. I love books written in verse but for some reason I still have not read an Ellen Hopkins book. I really need to rectify this. Which one would you recommend starting with?

    • Hmm. Ellen Hopkins verse books are different than other verse because they are much more "real" and true-to-life for what the issues young people face – and all people, really. They all have issues in them. Not really one issue, or two, but several issues. They're pretty hardcore, but SO WORTH the read.

      The first of her books that I read was Crank, and then Glass. Then Triangles, which I loved so much. Now I've read Burned, and I think I love it as much or more than Triangles. It depends on whether or not you want an adult-Hopkins or YA-Hopkins. I'll send you a message. And then we can talk about it while/after you read. Thanks for stopping by! I really hope you love her books, she is absolutely one of my favorites ever. Such a great talent.

  6. I have wanted to read something by Hopkins since I saw her speak at YALL Fest last year. Actually reading one kinda freaks me out. Because they seem so intense. Because I'm such a chicken.

    • I'm so thrilled about the potential for seeing her at Yallfest this year I can barely speak of it for fear of messing it up.

      Yes, you should grab one of her books and just read it. They're all a little messy, a little rough, a little tough to get through. But I say that if you've heard her speak, you can definitely give her writing a chance – who knows, you may end up a hardcore fan. She's amazing. I understand being a chicken, though. But give one of her books a chance. They're SO GOOD. They do have audio, even though I've never done them on audio yet.

  7. This is the only Hopkins book that I struggled with, and I struggled with it because the religion isn't fictional or hinted at. It's very clearly identified and I find books like this to be damaging. (But that doesn't change the fact that Hopkins is one of the most phenomenal writers in the YA market.)

    Asheley, I'd love to discuss this one more in depth with you sometime! 🙂 I know I haven't been online much, but we should def set up a time to catch up and chat, and discuss this one more at length. 🙂

    • You're right, the religion is very real, but I found/think that it wasn't a real group she writes in the book – it was based on a real group in a fictional family* – and that is what was palatable for me. These kinds of things do happen, even in other religious groups – even in my area of the country in other congregations, etc. I personally didn't feel like she attacked the group, or anyone really. I just feel like she called out the congregation in particular because of their nonchalance in dealing with this struggling family – AND the community at large – because they knew about the problem too. This is a problem all across the US, even in my region.

      Ash, you KNOW I love discussing books with you – particular the contemps! I'll talk with you about any of them, anytime! Just let me know when you're around or available. Your schedule is so tough because you're doing all of the great things with your work.

      And I totally miss you online because YOU are the reason I'm reading stuff like this. YOU my friend.

      Thanks for stopping by my lil ole blog!! Always love seeing your name and face show up!

      *I'm not as familiar with that area out there, so I don't have as many facts as you may have, but this is what I'm coming up with…

    • You have no idea how happy it makes me that I introduced you to this genre and that you love it. Like, fo realz. 😛

      But yes, I would love to discuss this in depth with you sometime! (Hopefully soon!)

  8. Ah! Ellen Hopkins. I saw her at a reading in March, and I was very captivated by all she had to say. It's been months and I still haven't picked up one of her books but I did steal one from my sister and her adult book just came out.

    Your review made me think instantly of Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker. That book was so frustrating because the characters felt very narrow minded and sheltered to me, but it led to a very interesting conclusion for many people. I really like seeing people on their journeys to discover themselves outside of their religion. As long as its low on the preaching scale, I'm good! 🙂

    And verse!! VERSE! Did you read Love & Leftovers? So good!


      Ahem. Now that that's out, I LOVED Small Town Sinners. So much. It was VERY true to life for the particular people that Melissa Walker tried to write about, and I loved how she portrayed them. LOVED it. This book was not on the preaching scale at all, I think, it was just a group of people that were a part of a church.

      I have NOT read Love & Leftovers! I need to if it is verse! LOVE verse. I can't get enough.

  9. Honestly, you make this book sound absolutely amazing. It tackles a lot of tough stuff, and I love the fact that religion actually plays a role in this book for better or for worse. I really want to read this now, if only to experience the character's journey as she discovers what she thinks and believes.

    LOVE that this is in verse!

    • Alexa this book is amazing. I love Ellen Hopkins SO MUCH. Like I said in my review, it's a toss-up if this one or Triangles is my favorite. This is probably my favorite of her YA books. It tackles so many issues but her writing is so exquisite it doesn't feel as heavy as it could. I highly recommend it and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.

  10. I have GOT to read this. I'm always leery about books that deal with religion, but this one sounds like something I would like. And I can't believe this is quite possibly your favorite Ellen Hopkins book! I know how highly you speak of her, so that's a huge recommendation for me.

    Also, I recently read The Good Braider by Terry Farish – newish verse novel about a girl who is Sudanese refugee & comes to the US. Heartbreaking but definitely suited to verse. I'm planning on reviewing it soon. You might want to check it out!

    • I can't say enough how much I loved this one without yelling it to the world.

      I don't think the religion in this book should be a problem because it doesn't feel pushy on us as readers – rather, *I think* it gives an understanding of what this character goes through and why she feels the things she does and how she ends up at her aunt's house, etc. Basically, her church and the family's religious beliefs are things that she is unsure of (because she has unanswered questions) – these feelings and her thoughts about them color and dictate almost everything she does. She thinks about this near-constantly and feels guilt about nearly everything. It makes a wonderful topic to build an Ellen Hopkins book off of, and you know how Hopkins layers her topics and throws more than one issue into her books. I just loved this one.

      I remember you mentioning The Good Braider not too long ago. I'll have to check out what you say on it. I can't get enough of the verse novels, no matter what the topic, it seems. I just love them so much. Thank you for the recommendation!

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