Burned by Ellen Hopkins, takes the reader inside the home of a strict Mormon family. A seventeen year old girl, named Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, narrates her experiences in the household and her escape from it. Pattyn's father is an abusive alcoholic. He beats Pattyn's mother because he believes women must follow a man's orders. Pattyn's mother thinks her duty is to bear as many children as possible to pass along the family name. Pattyn's mother had only conceived girls so far. Her children from youngest to oldest are: Georgia, Roberta, Davie, Teddie, Ulyssa, Jackie and Pattyn.
Pattyn is extremely stressed with her home life and begins to wnder if there is something better out there for her. She uses books as an escape from real life but the books only spark her curiosity more. Pattyn does not see the world the same way her family does, especially her father. Pattyn does the unthinkable and begins dating a non-Mormon boy behind her parents' backs. Pattyn is soon discovered by her drunken father with her boyfriend in the desert. Pattyn's boyfriend then leaves her for another girl who Pattyn furiously punches in the face. Her father decides that as a punishment she will be sent to Nevada to live with her Aunt Jeanette. Her parents are finally expecting a son and cannot deal with stress Pattyn brings upon them.
During Pattyn's summer in Nevada with "Aunt J," she finds love through her aunt and a boy named Ethan. Pattyn describes him as "beautiful." Ironically, Ethan's father, Kevin, used to be Aunt J's high school sweetheart. Their relationship was torn apart by a threat with a gun and a beating from Aunt J's brother (Pattyn's father) for not being Mormon. Pattyn now understands why Aunt J left the Mormon community.
Pattyn's time with her aunt is very eye opening. She learns how to love, how to be loved, self-confident, and that there is more to life than just religion. Her original prediction was right. Pattyn sees God like her aunt does, heaven will accept her whether she loves a Mormon boy or not. Ethan is perfect for Pattyn, she cannot see her own beauty but he can. Ethan teaches Pattyn the meaning of true love.
At the close of summer, Pattyn returns home. She discovers that her father is now beating her younger sister, Jackie, because he cannot hit their pregnant mother. Soon after, Pattyn realizes that she is pregnant with Ethan's baby. When she calls Ethan to tell him the news, two mean girls from school overhear her and tell everyone in school. The word quickly spread to Pattyn's mom, but she denies it.
Pattyn and Ethan, intimidated by her father's wrath, leave for California. A "perfect Mormon boy" named Trevor was in love with Pattyn and had written down the car's license plate numbers. The father uses this information to call Highway Patrol to go get them. The road they were traveling on was icy and when Ethan sped up to lose the patrolmen, he lost control of the car. Pattyn wakes up in a hospital room only to find out that both Ethan and her baby were dead. Her father disowns her unable to deal with her recent events. Pattyn feels left with a dilemma in the end, shoot and kill all the people who caused her pain or move on. Pattyn says that if her father would just say he loves her, that she would spare him.
1) A major theme of the novel is self discovery. Pattyn is able to find out a lot about herself when she goes to live with her aunt. She is able to do so because of the support and love she receives from Aunt J and Ethan. She is not just another annoyance to them; they love her. Pattyn struggles with self identity all the way until the end of the novel and even then the author leaves the reader hanging without knowing what decision she will make. Has Pattyn grown enough as a person to let go of her past and try to move on with her life or will she disregard her enlightenment and kill everyone who has caused her so much pain? Why do you think Pattyn would spare her father if he said that he loved her?
2) The author, Ellen Hopkins, also emphasizes the importance of love and the effects of dysfunctional relationships. Her relationships with everyone in her family were strained. Growing up in an abusive environment, Pattyn did not know love until she found it from her Aunt J and Ethan. She was able to build healthy relationships with these people because they accepted her as she was. Her family was unable to have her unless she was the ideal Mormon child. Does this new support from love of those around her give Pattyn enough strength to love herself? Or has her past with an alcohloic, abusive father and submissive mother permanently scarred her? If Ethan had lived, would Pattyn then have the strength to love herself? Would Pattyn have been able to have a normal relationship with her baby if it had also lived?
3) Pattyn's father is consistently a negative force in the novel. He beat's Pattyn's mom, he then progresses to beat his own child, he breaks up Aunt J and her true love by threatening him, he drinks constantly, and he disowns Pattyn. He views women as property of men so he feels the need to control them. Pattyn's father does not have healthy relationships with anyone in the novel. It seems as if he has no emotion but anger. In Pattyn's position at the end of the novel, would you be able to move on with your life? If not, what would you do?