Book Review: Smoke

burned ellen hopkins review


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.

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Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository


*Warning: There will be spoilers from Burned by Ellen Hopkins. Read at your own risk!*

After reading Burned, I had very low expectations for Smoke. Not that I expected Smoke to be bad, just that I didn’t want to get my hopes high that Pattyn would actually get a happy ending. That just didn’t seem like Hopkins style. That being said, I was surprisingly satisfied with how this book ended and I’m so glad she gave us a sequel to Burned because I needed that closure.

Smoke is actually told in alternating POVs of Pattyn and her younger sister Jackie. The novel begins with Pattyn on the run after the death of her father and Jackie dealing with the repercussions (or lack there of) of what happened prior to her father’s death. Both Pattyn and Jackie’s stories are heartbreaking to say the least. They’ve gone through a lot, beginning with their father’s physical abuse and then dealing with death and in Jackie’s case rape (this happens at the start of the novel so you’re not being spoiled).

I truly liked nothing about Pattyn and Jackie’s mother. I wanted to be sympathetic because her husband was abusive but I believe there’s a difference between being a victim of abuse and than using that as an excuse for not taking care of your kids. Especially in the case of Jackie, her mother was not there for her at all and it was painful to read just how much her mother threw Jackie under the bus in order to satisfy her own needs.

It was also painful to see Pattyn continue to mourn the deaths of Ethan and her unborn child. Going on the run while dealing with that pain and then the confusing feelings about her father’s death was hard to read.

As always though, Hopkins writing was beautiful poetic and even the parts that made me cry sounded beautiful. I love Hopkins writing style and loved it even more in this novel. She handled so many issues in this novel, including hate crimes, with such sensitivity that you know this book was written with care.

Also liked the introduction of new characters like Adriana, Angel, and Gavin. I won’t say where they come in because that would spoil it but I thought they were all great for the Von Stratten sisters and I’m glad Pattyn and Jackie had them, as well as Aunt J, Kevin, and another family member that made a surprise appearance.

Though I’ll probably never read this book again because it was incredibly dark, despite the beautiful ending, I still think you should buy it just because I now what to share with everyone. Go read this book if you haven’t already.


4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Hell is alive in hearts emptied of love.”

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Book Review: Burned (Reread)

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It all started with a dream. Just a typical fantasy, but for a girl raised in a religious—and abusive—family, a simple dream could be the first step toward eternal damnation. Now Pattyn Von Stratten has questions. Questions about God, and sex, and mostly love. Will she ever find it? Pattyn 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 rural Nevada to find salvation and redemption. What she finds instead is love and acceptance, and for the first time she feels worthy of both—until she realizes that her old demons will not let her go. Those demons lead Pattyn down a path to hell—not to the place she learned about in sacrament meetings, but to an existence every bit as horrifying.

In this gripping and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins embarks on an emotional journey that ebbs and flows. From the highs of true love to the lows of loss and despair, Pattyn’s story is utterly compelling. You won’t want this story to end—but when it does, you can find out what’s next for Pattyn in the sequel, Smoke.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository


The first time I read Burned I was in high school and I remember loving it even though it broke my heart. Therefore when I heard there was a sequel I knew I had to read it but since I read Burned so long ago I knew I’d have to do a reread and I’m so glad I did.

The novel follows protagonist Pattyn who grew up in a Mormon family where it was believed that women were only there to provide children and their husband would have to pull them into heaven when the time came. Pattyn’s father was abusive and as Pattyn began to question her religion more and more she also began to act out. Her parents decide to send her to live with her aunt, and it may have been the best thing they ever did for her.

Out there she began to realize there was a different way to live and that there’s more to life than what she had been taught. However, don’t expect this story to have a happy ending. As Pattyn foreshadows often, her sense of freedom doesn’t last forever.

Even though I knew how this novel would end it still broke my heart again. While I love this book I hate how it ends, mainly because I want so much more for Pattyn. I’m currently reading Smoke now, which I like a lot, but I refuse to get my hopes up for Pattyn to have a happy ending. Ellen Hopkins has broken my heart too many times for that.

Overall, I thought this was a great read, even the second time around. If you haven’t read it yet definitely check out it. Just be prepared to cry. Also, while this is one portrayal of Mormon life this isn’t the case for all Mormons so don’t take it as such.

If you have read Burned let me know your thoughts on it below.


4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Live your life right. Love with all your heart. Don’t hurt others, and help those in need. That is all you need to know.”

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Book Review: Traffick


Synopsis from Amazon:

Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times bestsellingTricks from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank.

In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.

And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out? How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home.

*I received this book as a digital ARC from Simon and Schuster. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on November 3, 2015.*

I first fell in love with Ellen Hopkins’ writing style in high school when I read Crank. Since then I’ve read every single one of her books (including the adult novels) except one. I’m still waiting to get my hands on Smoke.

The point is I’m a huge fan and Traffick did not disappoint. If you haven’t read Tricks yet be warned there will be spoilers from that book here. I’ll try to keep it minimal but it’ll be hard not to mention a few key points.

If you’re like me it may have been a while since you read Tricks and therefore I urge you to  reread it, or at least look up a summary because when I first started reading Traffick I thought everything would just come back to me but I was very mistaken. I had to read up on Tricks to remember all the crazy that went on before I could dive into the sequel.

Traffick begins pretty close to where Tricks left off. We start with Cody who wakes up from a coma after being shot and then move through all my favorite characters from the first novel.

Seth is still struggling on his own, not being able to return home since he came out to his father. Ginger, Whitney, and Eden are all recovering from their life of turning tricks and trying to figure what will be next for them although they all handle this in very different ways.

I found this novel very interesting because it shows what happens after being trafficked. Seth is the only main character in this novel who’s still turning tricks. Everyone else is dealing with the repercussions and effects of what happened to them.

What Hopkins does very well is show the variety of ways in which a child could end up in this life and unfortunately often do today. There was no stereotype of all these kids coming from a bad home or a poor neighborhood. Of course that was the case for some but not for all. Each of these characters were different with different stories and experiences and I think Hopkins demonstrated that well.

This book took me through a roller coaster of emotions. When one of the characters succeeded I cheered with them. When one failed I cried along with them. I thankfully can’t say I know what living a life like this is like but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to get out. Hopkins doesn’t sugar coat her characters’ struggles but she also showed their triumphs.

My one issue with the book was the typical description of a person of color in reference to food, i.e. using words like “chocolate” and “espresso”to describe skin color and eyes instead of just saying dark skin and brown eyes. But because this book was excellent overall I’ll give Hopkins a pass although really you don’t have to describe us like food. Just say our skin tone color. It’s fine, really.

Moving on, this was an excellent novel and I urge you all to pick it up. If nothing else it made me want to learn more about sex trafficking, and specifically, child trafficking and what I can do to stop it. Hopkins brought light to a real issue and although I know sometimes people look down on YA fiction, Traffick just goes to show that any book, no matter the genre, can have a real message and an even more real impact.

Borrow or Buy: Buy! And while you’re at buy Tricks too.