Ellen Hopkins writes fiction in a non-traditional manner, which is epitomized in Burned, the story of Pattyn Von Stratten, a confused and growing young woman brought up among pain and fear. Her father, a war veteran and devout Mormon, is addicted to Johnnie Walker Black and abuses Pattyn’s mother, while also leaving psychological scars on his five daughters. Her family life pushes Pattyn away from his rules and warnings. With the help of some deceptive students from her school, Pattyn experiments with alcohol and sexual desire. When her father catches her drunk and without much clothing, Pattyn is sent to live in Nevada with her aunt J. Aunt J, who proves to be very different from her hypocritical brother, shows Pattyn the power of loving and being loved. In Nevada, Pattyn instantly falls in love with Ethan. While learning about the harmful effects of chemical experimentation in the desert and discovering her maturity into womanhood, Pattyn realizes that she has found a haven with Aunt J. When she is forced to move back home with her abusive father, Pattyn knows that she must make a choice and face the consequences of her actions.
Instead of traditional prose, Burned is written in poetic form, which makes for interesting aesthetic aspects and a quick read. Although the plot line is not particularly fascinating or original, the lyrical format makes Burned unique and unusual. I really enjoyed this new take on storytelling from Pattyn’s perspective.
Pattyn’s story is not exceptional, but it tells a truth about the hypocrisy of many religious people and the hidden home lives of many that cannot speak for themselves because they live in fear. Ellen Hopkins is a genuine writer that portrays real-life situations through the eyes of a defiant and self-sufficient young woman who changes often throughout the novel.
I would recommend Burned to anyone that enjoys honest stories about young women or books written in a poetic form.