Pattyn Von Stratten (16), who lives with her sisters and parents in a strict Mormon household, has begun to question her religion and family values. Her father is an abusive alcoholic. Her mother is submissive, as taught by their church community. Feeling oppressed by her home life and the overbearingness of her family, Pattyn rebels by drinking and starts dating Derek.
Having been dismissed by her parents all these years, Derek makes Pattyn feel pretty and interesting. When her father finds out about their relationship, they end it and Pattyn is grounded. While she is grounded, Derek gets back together with Carmen, his former girlfriend. He also starts spreading rumors about Pattyn.
After Pattyn punches Carmen and damages school property, her parents are furious and send her to live with her Aunt Jeanette on her ranch in Nevada for the summer. The two bond and become very close, with Aunt J becoming a mother figure and a role model in whom Patty can confide. Aunt J teaches Pattyn to drive, shows her how to ride a horse, and reminds Pattyn of her worth. Aunt J even answered some of Pattyn's questions about the family and reveals all the hideous details of her father’s past. While at the ranch in Nevada, Pattyn meets Ethan, a sweet, handsome, and older boy, and the two fall madly in love.
When summer ends, Pattyn returns home for her senior year of high school. Her mother is very pregnant and she is once again living in fear of her father. Just when her situation seems as bad as it can get, things take a turn for the worse.
BTSYA / Teen Reader (15):
Burned is written in free verse poetry, which greatly emphasizes Pattyn's feelings. The content is very intense and original. Pattyn struggles with her faith and the idea of heaven. She feels extreme guilt while going against the beliefs of her church, but also feels excited and somewhat free. This can be relatable to some, but I wouldn’t begin having distrustful thoughts about the Mormon community. Some LDS households or communities may be problematic and toxic, but so are many other families of all different religions. There are stories out there that show problems inside of the Mormon faith, but there are also stories that paint a different picture of the religion. I found the book to be a misrepresentation of families of the faith, but I am not Mormon and therefore not qualified to confirm that accusation from personal experience.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was Aunt J’s immense support of Pattyn and Ethan’s relationship. Pattyn’s aunt encouraged her to start dating, yet never thought of the consequences, which I found especially dangerous since Pattyn was not her child. For example, Aunt J never spoke to Pattyn about contraception. Aunt J knew Pattyn grew up in a very sheltered household but didn’t think to educate her on the proper protection?
It should be noted that Pattyn told her aunt that she didn’t want to follow her faith anymore, meaning that she was potentially open to going against the doctrines of the LDS church and its prohibition of premarital sex. I was glad that Aunt J was able to help Pattyn express her feelings, but Aunt J made me a bit uncomfortable and she didn’t really teach Pattyn to be her own independent self, with or without a man.
Although some may enjoy the novel, I found it disappointing. Every page left me feeling desperate to help Pattyn, her mom, and her siblings get away from their father. I wanted Pattyn to find a better life and prove her dad wrong. I was also hoping she would discover herself outside of loving someone. The ending was not what I expected, and I ended the book feeling disturbed and hopeless. TBH, knowing the ending made the whole book feel pretty depressing and empty. There is no real resolution of the plot.
Overall, the poetry helps intensify the character’s emotions but the themes regarding the Mormon faith could lead to some readers having distorted thoughts about the religion. Additionally, it could potently influence young audiences into thinking they are only relevant when they are in a relationship and that their worth depends on a significant other. Finally, Aunt J’s encouragement of Pattyn and Ethan’s relationship seemed inappropriate.
If you like fast-paced dramas but are able to look past Burned’s faults, I recommend this book for those ages sixteen and up, as the novel contains mature content such as death, abuse, sexual material, underage drinking, and inappropriate language.
Raw, expressive language underly a roller-coaster of emotions in this book that you will both love and hate.
The plot mature themes and situations.
This is a novel in verse that is about one girl's experiences growing up in an uber-strict, dysfunctional household, and learning to accept who she is.
Our reviewer raises an excellent point about how the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is portrayed. What does your reader think? Is the story more about the church and its doctrine or about a girl who is struggling with her faith in general?
SItuations in the book also present themselves as discussion starters, including how to find help for those whom you suspect may be suffering from abuse (mental, physical, emotional).
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age: 15
Borrow. Our reviewer notes that while beautifully written, it is a hard read.