Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 2, 2008

Ellen Hopkin’s Burned (I give away some of the ending)

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — allison @ 6:27 am

Hi everyone,

I just finished reading Burned, which I started a week or so ago for book club, stepped away for it for awhile, and just finished it yesterday. It was shocking. It’s about a girl named Pattyon who lives in a Mormon family, and looks at hypocrisy. Her father is an alcoholic and beats her mother, her, and her sisters. The Bishop of the church does nothing to help, and believes in the subordination of women. Pattyon starts acting out, and is sent to live with her Aunt for the summer. She finally finds love but loses it, which completely enrages her. The book ends with her saying she is going to take her handgun into school and shoot all the people there and her father too.

Now, I’m not usually one to be question a book, but I believe that if some students read this book, they should be discussing the issue with a parent or teacher. As I’ve told a few of you, I read this book because it was recommended to me by a student. I was a substitute teaching assistant for this boy. He had behavioral problems and he liked to read “dark things” and had a fascination with death. None of his other teachers had read the book. This book ends with Pattyon wanting to kill all of these people, and the whole story makes you see why she felt that way. The reader never finds out if she actually carries out her plan, or if there are any reprecussions (although she claims to not care for her own life anymore). I just think that when a middle school student reads such a complex book, in light or recent school violence, there should be someone paying attention to what the student is reading and talking to the student about it.

Allison

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4 Comments »

  1. Allison,

    I think you’ve made an extremely strong case for making sure we read books before we recommend them to students. This
    book is obviously very relevant and topical, but as you say, needs meaningful and substantive discussion.

    Jonathan

    Comment by scrollman — April 2, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  2. Allison:
    Because of the gravity of the topic and the nature of the reading, we had a similar discussion to this in my seminar on teen suicide. Ironically, one of the books I chose to discuss was Ellen Hopkin’s Impulse. Our group determined that the gray area between giving a book of this nature (“heavy” as Raph put it) to a seemingly depressed student could be extremeley detrimental. I agree with you that such books cannot just be dispersed without regard for impact or emotional consequences.
    ~Kari
    Ps: I would love to read this book, do you own it?

    Comment by kariredmond — April 2, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  3. Kari,
    I figured her other books might be equally as edgy. I do not own it, I actually borrowed the copy from a boy at JD and am long overdue to get it back to him.
    Do you want to be in book cub with me so that we can discuss?

    Allison

    Comment by allison — April 3, 2008 @ 7:33 am

  4. Allison,

    I’m glad you brought up this topic, especially with ENDGAME in our near future. What Jon said about reading books before suggesting them is right on. I’m wondering, what is the best way to approach a student who reads “dark things” like you said. Do we engage on the book itself? (getting right to it?) Or do we try to approach the student about the day, the classwork… more banal topical convo?

    One thing I’m noticing in the books I’ve been picking up recently is the absent teacher/guardian who doesn’t “step in” to help students who may be struggling. The characters in ENDGAME and STORY OA GIRL seem to expect that teachers SHOULD step in, and I’m thinking that they are right to expect that.

    How do we step in? Is it a matter of breaking up a fight? Or noticing a book?

    You got me thinking.
    Joyce

    Comment by Joyce — April 3, 2008 @ 9:49 am


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