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.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Did You Ever
When you were little, endure
your parents' warnings, then wait
for them to leave the room,
pry loose protective covers
and consider inserting some metal
object into an electrical outlet?
Did you wonder if for once
you might light up the room?
When you were big enough
to cross the street on your own,
did you ever wait for a signal,
hear the frenzied approach
of a fire truck and feel like
stepping out in front of it?
Did you wonder just how far
that rocket ride might take you?
When you were almost grown,
did you ever sit in a bubble bath,
notice a blow-dryer plugged
in within easy reach, and think
about dropping it into the water?
Did you wonder if the expected
rush might somehow fail you?
And now, do you ever dangle
your toes over the precipice,
dare the cliff to crumble,
defy the frozen deity to suffer
the sun, thaw feather and bone,
take wing to fly you home?
I, Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, do.
I'm Not Exactly Sure
When I began to feel that way.
Maybe a little piece of me
always has. It's hard to remember.
But I do know things really
began to spin out of control
after my first sex dream.
As sex dreams go, there wasn't
much sex, just a collage
of very hot kisses, and Justin Proud's
hands, exploring every inch
of my body, at my fervent
invitation. As a stalwart Mormon
high school junior, drilled
ceaselessly about the dire
catastrophe awaiting those
who harbored impure thoughts,
I had never kissed a boy,
had never even considered
that I might enjoy such
an unclean thing, until
literature opened my eyes.
See, the Library
was my sanctuary.
were like guardian
with graying hair
and beady eyes,
and always ready
to recommend new
to gaze through.
A. A. Milne. Beatrix
Grahame. E. B.
Cleary. Eve Bunting.
Then I started high
school, where the
librarian was half
angel, half she-devil,
so sayeth the rumor
mill. I hardly cared.
Ms. Rose was all
I could hope I might
one day be: aspen
physique, new penny
hair, aurora green
eyes, and hands that
could speak. She
walked on air. Ms
Rose shuttered old
portals undreamed of.
And just beyond,
what fantastic worlds!
I Met Her My Freshman Year
All wide-eyed and dim about starting high school,
a big new school, with polished hallways
and hulking lockers and doors that led
A scary new school, filled with towering
teachers and snickering students,
impossible schedules, tough expectations,
and endless possibilities.
The library, with its paper perfume,
whispered queries, and copy
machine shuffles, was the only familiar
place on the entire campus.
And there was Ms. Rose.
How can I help you?
Fresh off a fling with C. S.
Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle,
hungry for travel far from home,
I whispered, "Fantasy, please."
She smiled. Follow me.
I know just where to take you.
I shadowed her to Tolkien's
Middle-earth and Rowling's
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
places no upstanding Mormon should go.
When you finish those,
I'd be happy to show you more.
Fantasy Segued into Darker Dimensions
And authors who used three whole names:
Vivian Vande Velde, Annette Curtis Klause.
Mary Downing Hahn.
By my sophomore year, I was deep
into adult horror -- King, Koontz, Rice.
You must try classic horror,
insisted Ms. Rose.
Poe, Wells, Stoker. Stevenson. Shelley.
There's more to life than monsters.
You'll love these authors:
Burroughs. Dickens. Kipling. London.
Bradbury. Chaucer. Henry David Thoreau.
Jane Austen. Arthur Miller. Charlotte Brontë.
F. Scott Fitzgerald. J. D. Salinger.
By my junior year, I devoured increasingly
adult fare. Most, I hid under my dresser:
D. H. Lawrence. Truman Capote.
Ken Kesey. Jean Auel.
Mary Higgins Clark. Danielle Steel.
To view the world at large
through borrowed eyes,
eyes more like those
I wanted to own.
to see that it was more than
okay -- it was, in some circles,
expected -- to question my
little piece of the planet.
to understand that I could
stretch if I wanted to, explore
if I dared, escape
if I just put one foot
in front of the other.
to realize that escape
might offer the only real
hope of freedom from my
supposed God-given roles --
wife and mother of as many
babies as my body could bear.
I Also Began to Journal
Okay, one of the things expected of Latter-
Day Saints is keeping a journal.
But I'd always considered it just another
"supposed to," one not to worry much about.
Besides, what would I write in a book
everyone was allowed to read?
Some splendid nonfiction chronicle
about sharing a three-bedroom house
with six younger sisters, most of whom
I'd been required to diaper?
Some suspend-your-disbelief fiction
about how picture-perfect life was at home,
forget the whole dysfunctional truth
about Dad's alcohol-fueled tirades?
Some brilliant manifesto about how God
whispered sweet insights into my ear,
higher truths that I would hold on to forever,
once I'd shared them through testimony?
Or maybe they wanted trashy confessions --
Daydreams Designed by Satan.
Whatever. I'd never written but a few
words in my mandated diary.
Maybe it was the rebel in me.
Or maybe it was just the lazy in me.
But faithfully penning a journal
was the furthest thing from my mind.
Ms. Rose Had Other Ideas
One day I brought a stack of books,
most of them banned in decent LDS
households, to the checkout counter.
Ms. Rose looked up and smiled.
You are quite the reader, Pattyn.
You'll be a writer one day, I'll venture.
I shook my head. "Not me.
Who'd want to read anything
I have to say?"
She smiled. How about you?
Why don't you start
with a journal?
So I gave her the whole
lowdown about why journaling
was not my thing.
A very good reason to keep
a journal just for you. One
you don't have to write in.
A day or two later, she gave
me one -- plump, thin-lined,
with a plain denim cover.
Decorate it with your words,
she said. And don't be afraid
of what goes inside.
I Wasn't Sure What She Meant
Until I opened the stiff-paged volume
and started to write.
At first, rather ordinary fare
garnished the lines.
Feb. 6. Good day at school. Got an A
on my history paper.
Feb. 9. Roberta has strep throat. Great!
Now we'll all get it.
But as the year progressed, I began
to feel I was living in a stranger's body.
Mar. 15. Justin Proud smiled at me today.
I can't believe it! And I can't believe
how it made me feel. Kind of tingly all over,
like I had an itch I didn't want to scratch.
An itch you-know-where.
Mar. 17. I dreamed about Justin last night.
Dreamed he kissed me, and I kissed him back,
and I let him touch me all over my body
and I woke up all hot and blushing.
Blushing! Like I'd done something wrong.
Can a dream be wrong?
Aren't dreams God's way
of telling you things?
Was one of the designated
"hot bods" on campus.
No surprise all the girls
hotly pursued that bod.
The only surprise was my
I mean, he was anything
but a good Mormon boy.
And I, allegedly being
a good Mormon girl,
was supposed to keep
my feminine thoughts pure.
Easy enough, while struggling
with stacks of books,
piles of paper, and mounds
of adolescent angst.
Easy enough, while chasing
after a herd of siblings,
each the product of lustful,
if legally married, behavior.
Easy enough, while watching
other girls pant after him.
But just how do you maintain
pure thoughts when you dream?
Copyright ©2006 by Ellen Hopkins
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to Burned by Ellen Hopkins
ABOUT THE BOOK
Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, a Mormon teen, spends most of her time caring for her younger siblings and resenting her mother’s submissive role and her father’s abusive behavior. Like many teen girls, Pattyn has a sex dream about a boy; however, raised in a household with strict religious beliefs, Pattyn wonders if dreaming about sex is wrong and begins asking questions about sex, God, a woman’s role, and love. Afraid of her alcoholic and abusive father and detached from her overworked and depressed mother, Pattyn poses questions to Brother Prior but receives no satisfactory answers. Derek Colthorpe begins paying attention to Pattyn; though Pattyn knows what she feels is lust and not love, her need to be with him is intense. When Pattyn’s father catches her in a compromising position with Derek, a non-Mormon teen, tensions between Pattyn and her father escalate, and he sends her to spend the summer on a ranch with an aunt she does not know. Pattyn is expected to find salvation and redemption during her time in rural Nevada, but Aunt J, opposing the rigidity of her brother’s religion, teaches Pattyn about acceptance and love. Pattyn falls in love with Ethan, the son of Aunt J’s old friend, but knowing her mother and siblings need her help and are victims of her father’s abuse, she returns to her family at the end of summer, leaving Ethan behind. Pattyn stays in contact with Ethan via phone, but when events take a tragic turn, Pattyn learns, despite her time with her aunt, that she cannot escape her demons.
When bad things happen to good people, people sometimes comment that “life is not fair.” What impact, however, does “randomness,” the idea that bad things happen randomly to both “good” and “bad” people, have on this comment?
Can you think of a time in which you felt betrayed? Explain. A time in which you believed a turn of events was unfair? Explain.
In what way is Pattyn’s life different from that of the typical teenage girl? How is it similar? How does she fit in at her school?
A librarian encourages Pattyn to read and gives her a journal in which to write her thoughts. What doors does the librarian open for Pattyn?
Why does Pattyn resent her mother’s role as a parent and wife? Speculate as to why Pattyn does not accept a similar life for herself.
How is Pattyn confused by the concept of free will?
Pattyn knows that she is not in love with Derek Colthorpe, and yet she is attracted to him. What accounts for this attraction? How does Derek fill a void?
Despite Pattyn’s resentment toward her father, she still yearns for his acceptance. Cite a passage that illustrates her longing for her father’s attention.
What accounts for her parents’ unhappiness?
Aunt J is intuitive. She understands Pattyn’s confusion and sense of guilt and her need to be loved and to belong. What common experiences connect Aunt J and her niece?
How is Pattyn’s life different on the ranch with Aunt J? How does Pattyn grow during the summer with her aunt?
How does Aunt J help Pattyn celebrate her birthday? Why does her aunt spend so much on her?
What does Pattyn learn about boy/girl relationships from Ethan? Why does Aunt J encourage their relationship?
Compare and contrast Derek and Ethan.
Why does Pattyn feel a need to return home to her family, knowing she has escaped her father’s abusive behavior and found love and acceptance in her aunt’s house?
Aunt J tells Pattyn that Pattyn gave Aunt J her life back. What does Aunt J mean?
Is Pattyn able to stand up against her father’s abuse once she returns home? Why or why not?
What happens at the end of the story that sends Pattyn spiraling back down? How does she feel betrayed?
Write a follow-up chapter to the last scene in the book that sets up a sequel in which Pattyn is saved. What would need to happen in this chapter to turn the story around?
Research the effects of emotional abuse on children. What accounts for a person being raised in an abusive environment not feeling “good enough” or “deserving”? If children do not come to terms with these feelings, how might these feelings impact them in adult relationships? What differences might exist between men and women?
Research nuclear testing in the state of Nevada. How have people and the environment been affected, and how has the government made compensation? What measures have been put in place in our country to protect citizens from nuclear disaster?
Research summer experiences (camps for teens, for example) that might help arm young people who have grown up in wounded families with stronger coping skills? How would one go about finding out which of these experiences would be helpful and which might prove more damaging?
Guide prepared by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.