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Burned    by Ellen Hopkins order for
by Ellen Hopkins
Order:  USA  Can
Margaret K. McElderry, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Pattyn, the oldest of seven girls in a Mormon household, often plays a game of What If. What if you insert a metal object into an electrical outlet? What if you stand on the sidewalk waiting for the light to change and step out in front of a truck? What if you drop a plugged up blow drier into the bathtub with you?

Things really begin to spin out of control when Pattyn has her first sexual dream. A high school junior, Pattyn has never kissed a boy. As a Mormon, she has been drilled in the dire catastrophe of having impure thoughts, but she can't control her dreams. When she asks Brother Prior at seminary about dreams he brushes her off, just as he did when she tried to ask if it was okay for a husband to beat his wife, like her father did her mother. True, she wasn't able to get the entire question out. She'd always been told, 'What happens at home, stays at home.'

Trapped by a home and church that treat their women like chattel, Pattyn begins seeing a non-Mormon student at her high school. When her dad finds out, she is sent away to live with her Aunt Jeanette. Aunt J runs her own cattle ranch and left the Mormon church years ago. Pattyn blossoms in the beautiful mountains of Nevada, in mutual love and in the respect of her aunt. Aunt J believes God is love and that if you don't hurt others, you help those in need, and love with all your heart, you'll be welcome in heaven.

Pattyn also finds true love in the mountains, but at the end of summer she is called home to take care of the newest baby, a long awaited boy. While her mother is pregnant with his son, Pattyn's sister Jackie becomes her father's punching bag.

Pattyn's journal raises many questions and gives readers a lot to think about. She touches on nuclear testing and secret government radiation experiments in Nevada, nuclear waste, the Vietnam war, women's rights and religion, and of course, love. In Burned - written in verse and filled with emotion - Hopkins has created an intense reading experience.

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