*SPOILERS* Recent Reads – Burned Duology

*****This review will have major spoilers *****


This is the first time I’ve reviewed two books at the same time. It’s also the first time I’ve included spoilers, but I didn’t know how to talk about these books without them. These are the two books in the Burned duology.

Burned and Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

My rating ✰4✰/✰5✰

Pictures and quotes from Goodreads

I do know things really began to spin out of control after my first sex dream.

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.

In this riveting and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride. From the highs of true love to the lows of abuse, Pattyn’s story will have readers engrossed until the very last word.

Pattyn’s father is dead. Now she’s on the run in this riveting companion to New York Times bestseller Burned, which Kirkus Reviews calls “a strong, painful, and tender piece about wresting hope from the depths of despair.”

Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that fatal night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated.

Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life as a migrant worker on a California ranch. But is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

Bestselling author Ellen Hopkins continues the riveting story of Pattyn Von Stratten she began in Burned to explore what it takes to rise from the ashes, put ghosts to rest, and step into a future.

My experience reading this duology was nothing like I expected. I knew I had read Burned years ago. I finished the book and sobbed so uncontrollably that my husband found me in the bedroom and thought that someone we knew must have died because I could not be soothed and I could not stop crying. That memory was big in my mind when I made the decision to reread this book after a discussion about it took place in a book group on Facebook. 

I read these books back to back and I felt all of the things while reading the first book. Anger, sadness, joy, everything, but I didn’t cry at the ending like I did the first time. When Pattyn loses Ethan and their unborn baby because of her father I was sad and angry, yes, but the gut wrenching agony of her loss didn’t hit me nearly as hard this time around. I have been through so much loss of my own this past year that I just didn’t have enough left in me to cry that hard for a fictional girl that lost her boyfriend of a few months and a baby she didn’t know if she wanted yet. I cry all the time so I feel particularly heartless for not crying at the end of this book. It was still a great book, just not as heart-wrenchingly sad as I remember it being. 

I was sure I had never read the sequel because my husband thought I shouldn’t read Ellen Hopkins’ books after the sob fest that followed my first reading of Burned. They all made me cry. Something about her style of writing in verse and the always hard subject matter she writes about gets to me every time. So I remember the discussion between my late husband and I about how I should choose books that wouldn’t make me cry so much. 

However, when I started reading Smoke I realized I had definitely read this a long time ago too. I didn’t remember any details until they were presented, but this book hit me so much harder then Burned did. I cried throughout the book and especially at the end.

Pattyn is doing a lot in this book, but the part that hit me so hard was how she was rebuilding her life after losing everything she had loved. Everything that had ever made her happy was gone and could never come back and she still somehow found little moments to feel joy.

I had some moments of disbelief because she ended up moving on from her losses so much faster than I can imagine, but I had to remind myself that she is a lot younger than me and her relationship was a lot shorter than mine. I found so much hope in her story, when she talked to Ethan at his grave, when she brought her new boyfriend to her home, when she got to go back to what and where she felt loved and at home. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to be happy like she was at the end of the duology, but the hope she showed in her story made my heart feel happy by the end. 


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