Friday, 7 January 2011
Review: Burned by Ellen Hopkins
Summary (from Goodreads): Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, Pattyn Von Stratten starts asking questions -- about God, a woman's role, sex, love. She experiences the first stirrings of passion, but when her father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control. Pattyn is sent to live with an aunt in the wilds of Nevada to find salvation and redemption. What she finds instead is love and acceptance -- until she realizes that her old demons will not let her go.
Review: You may or may not know that I'm a massive fan of Ellen Hopkins, after reading her novels Crank and Glass (strangely, I never actually reviewed them, though I mention my fandom a lot). Anyway, my expectations for Burned were very high.
It was no disappointment.
Burned wasn't quite as...dark, I suppose, as the disturbed-and-disturbing Glass. That doesn't mean that Ellen Hopkins doesn't pack a punch in this one. She does. Though it's probably the one of her books that deals with the least- or at least *lighter* issues, dark things abound, sometimes until you feel almost claustrophobic, especially towards the end of the book, when it seems like there's really no way out for Pattyn in the midst of her misfortune. And, well, there isn't, really. Compelling as it is, Burned isn't the sort of book that the reader really enjoys (Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma springs to mind).
The way that Ellen Hopkins writes intrigues me. She dares to do interesting, exciting things with her poetry; shape poems, double meanings, and in some cases poems within poems. It's pretty inspiring (at least to me, struggling to finish a couple of verse novels), and not once does it sound awkward or interrupted. The whole thing flows continuously, kind of like listening to one long song in a way.
I've read a fair few reviews from readers who've despised this book because they think it doesn't portray contemporary Mormon life in an accurate sort of way. I couldn't say whether they're right or not because I'm not LDS myself. So I'll just kind of skirt round that and leave you to make your own conclusion on the matter. So moving swiftly onwards and upwards.
The heroine of the story is Pattyn, who is like her six sisters named after a military general from one point or another in American history. She is- was- depends how you look at it- a nice character, though I found it quite hard to relate to her- which could just be because our circumstances are so different. Still, she was one of those characters who changed, one of those characters who by the end of the book was completely different from the girl she had been at the start, and for that I liked her. She had an interesting voice, or narration you could say; she seemed quite matter-of-fact, and never seemed very self-pitying yet didn't really possess a stiff upper lip. Maybe it was her upbringing- for all her unruly actions, especially in the first part of the book, she almost seemed almost calm in the way she told her story.
Burned is, among other things, a love story. And the object of Pattyn's desire is Ethan. He was nice enough, I suppose, but not one of those crushworthy fictional boys that I come across now and again *cough*YukiSohma*cough*Nate*spluttercough*.
Anyway. I liked him, but that was probably only because I wanted so much for Pattyn to be happy and if he made her happy then I was happy. Kind of. Apart from the fact that he kills mountain lions- which is in fact pretty awesome- he himself didn't seem to have any other vaguely remarkable characteristics.
The ending is the thing that causes so many of the one and two-star reviews on Amazon, at least it seems so. It's very vague, very uncertain and very agonising in the way that it finishes. Still, I think it was quite a fitting end. The thing that leads up to the end (I won't say what it is) I definitely saw coming, but then I didn't see the ultimate conclusion- that is, the cliffhanger. If you don't like the way it finishes, then go and watch an old My Little Pony video. Alternatively you could do this after you've finished Burned, to cheer you up and give you some more hope for humanity.
In three words: devastating, compelling, incredible.
Recommended for: everybody who hasn't read an Ellen Hopkins book yet; I think this is a good introduction. Wait until the Crank trilogy or Tricks for the really dark stuff.