Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #23: Burned April 5, 2010

I couldn’t sleep tonight.  So, as I often do, I turned on the bedside light and grabbed the book I’d been reading.

I remembered my thinking when I was reading Jen Bryant’s books The Trial and 1928: Views from the Scopes Trial, that I still didn’t GET the whole verse novel thing.

I get it now.


Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Simon Pulse, 2006

Courtesy of

From Booklist

Gr. 9-12. Full of anger at her father, an alcoholic who abuses her mother, Pattyn begins to question her Mormon religion and her preordained, subservient role within it. She is confused by her mother’s acceptance of the brutal abuse, and although she is furious at and terrified of her father, she still longs for his love and approval. As the consequences of her anger become more dramatic, her parents send her to spend the summer with her aunt on a Nevada ranch. There she finds the love and acceptance she craves, both from her aunt and from a college-age neighbor, Ethan. Told in elegant free verse, Burned envelopes the reader in Pattyn’s highs and lows, her gradual opening to love, and her bouts of rage, confusion, and doubt. It exposes the mind of the abused, but regrettably offers no viable plan to deal with the abuser, a reality perhaps, but a plot element that may raise eyebrows in the adult community. Still, this will easily find rapid-fire circulation among its YA audience. A troubling but beautifully written novel. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Strengths: Simply:  One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.  Rivals the quality of Zusak’s The Book Thief, my top 5-star read.  Hopkins’ free verse is effortless and eloquent and makes strategic use of structure in subtle and artful ways.  Pattyn (a beautiful and hauntingly appropriate name derived by her violent father) is shatteringly real; Hopkins is a genius at building and developing her character.  I came to love Pattyn in all of her confusion and pain and daring to hope for something less hopeless than what she’s known all her life, and her fear that she will find it.  I was sucked irretrievably into her life, swallowed by the anguish that drove her existence.  Only once or twice have I read a book that made my heart break, and left me aching at the end.   Hopkins has elevated the verse novel to its highest, most breathtaking form.

Potential Flaws: In my eyes?  Absolutely none.

My Rating:

Beautiful.  Painful.  Moving.  And at the risk of sounding trite…a masterpiece.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s