I have some knowledge of Mormonism (LDS) most of it learned from an old friend I had in high school. Therefore, I hoped Burned in addition to being a great story, would also teach me something. Ellen Hopkins’ style of writing in verse while at first made me hesitant also intrigued me. The story grabbed my attention and kept it for the first one hundred pages; however, while some of the story continued to hold my interest, it was too predictable for me to truly enjoy.
Pattyn’s family is strict and religious on the outside. On the inside, Pattyn’s family life is a nightmare. Her father is an abusive drunk who expects his wife and daughters’ absolute obedience. Her mother subjects herself to his treatment in the name of religion. Pattyn knows that her life is planned out for and she dreads it. She starts to read and the more she reads she questions the teachings she has been taught all her life. She rebels against her family and her church. As punishment she is sent to live on her aunt’s farm. For the first time in her life she is allowed freedom, and she learns about herself and what she truly wants for her future.
To say this book was difficult to stomach is an understatement. I want to make it clear that I don’t believe that all Mormons behave the way they are portrayed in this book. I’ll admit I don’t know many, but I don’t want to stereotype anyone. I have a huge problem with women’s roles according to this book. As a woman it is hard to stomach some of the ideology being thrown around. What I mostly wanted from this book, in addition to a good a story, was to learn more about the Mormon faith and its followers. Well the story was just Ok to me, and the only thing I learned that I didn’t before was that coffee is a sin? (Correct me if I’m wrong)
Pattyn as a characters worked for me in the beginning. She was curious and not afraid to push buttons. However, she lost some of her personality when she met the boys in her life. To be fair, I think it was just how Hopkins wrote the scenes. It didn’t feel natural at all. I’d hoped that connecting with her Aunt J would allow for some personal growth that we the readers would enjoy seeing. However, when boy number two enters the story I already knew where the story was headed. Pattyn finds her self-confidence not from her own issues and overcoming them, but because a beautiful boy happens to like her. This wasn’t consistent with what I assumed the book represented. Certainly what I was getting from the story, which was about questioning women’s roles and their rights to be individuals. One of my pet peeves, is when authors have their female leads “overcome” their issues by having them abruptly fall in love. Then we are supposed to believe that they are strong and confident now. I don’t believe that things are ever that simple. If you have issues, the best thing for you to do is to resolve them, before trying to give any part of yourself to someone else.
Ellen Hopkins’s should be commended for her very unique writing style. The entire book is written in verse and not simply the stanzaic form. She creates images with the verses, and they allow the reader to not just read what Pattyn feels, but to see it as well. It was visually appealing as well as interesting.
Overall a strong start, but the ending didn’t work for me. I did like the writing style and I might pick up another Hopkins books.