An Analysis of Ellen Hopkins' "Burned"

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Ellen Hopkins' novel, "Burned," is a compelling work that delves into the tumultuous life of Pattyn Von Stratten, a teenager navigating the complexities of family, religion, love, and self-discovery. This essay aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the novel, exploring its themes, character development, and the profound impact it has on its teenage readers. "Burned" is not just a story; it is a powerful narrative that resonates with adolescents and offers valuable insights into their lives.

The Quest for Freedom

Pattyn Von Stratten's journey begins in a devout Mormon family, where religious expectations and rigid traditions define her life.

Her family's strict adherence to Mormonism contrasts sharply with her father's alcoholism and abusive behavior. Pattyn, like many teenagers, yearns for freedom and self-expression. She rebels against the confines of her family, school, and church, eager to embrace her individuality and escape the oppressive atmosphere at home.

As Pattyn's father succumbs to alcoholism, her mother assumes the responsibility of maintaining the household, striving to keep it in perfect order to avoid upsetting her husband.

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Pattyn's rebellion intensifies as she yearns for attention and seeks to break free from the constraints of her Mormon upbringing. Her suspension from school marks a turning point, leading to an unexpected consequence—being sent to live with an aunt she barely knows. This decision sets in motion a series of events that will irrevocably alter Pattyn's life.

The Themes of Abuse and Dysfunctional Relationships

Ellen Hopkins skillfully portrays the themes of abuse and dysfunctional relationships throughout "Burned.

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" Pattyn's father, an abusive alcoholic, inflicts physical and emotional pain on her and her mother. This theme of abuse serves as a central element in the narrative, highlighting the devastating effects of living in such a volatile environment. Pattyn's journey becomes a powerful illustration of the strength required to break free from the cycle of abuse.

In addition to abuse, the novel delves into dysfunctional relationships within the family. Pattyn's parents are trapped in a tumultuous marriage characterized by her father's addiction and violence. These dysfunctional dynamics contribute to Pattyn's desire for escape and self-discovery. Ellen Hopkins deftly sheds light on the damaging effects of dysfunctional relationships on adolescents, portraying the challenges they face during their formative years.

The Path to Self-Discovery

Amidst the chaos of her family life and her rebellion against the constraints of her upbringing, Pattyn embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She longs to break free from the chains of her Mormon lifestyle and forge her own identity. The theme of growing up and finding one's destiny takes center stage in Pattyn's narrative. As she rebels against her family, school, and church, Pattyn gradually unveils the layers of her true self.

A pivotal moment in her transformation occurs when she is sent to live with her aunt in Nevada. This relocation presents Pattyn with the opportunity to redefine herself and escape the limitations of her past. It is a testament to the resilience of youth in the face of adversity, highlighting the capacity for change and personal growth.

Love's Complexity

Ellen Hopkins skillfully explores the multifaceted nature of love within the pages of "Burned." Pattyn's journey includes falling in love with a young man named Ethan, introducing her to the complexities of romantic relationships. The theme of love intertwines with elements of passion, desire, and the exploration of one's sexuality.

As Pattyn's relationship with Ethan deepens, she grapples with her evolving feelings and desires, navigating the uncharted territory of young love. The author illustrates that love can be both exhilarating and challenging, especially when it confronts societal expectations and personal limitations. Love, in its various forms, is a central theme that resonates with readers of all ages, especially teenagers.

Consequences of Life-Altering Decisions

The novel serves as a poignant reminder that life rarely follows a predetermined path, and decisions can have profound and far-reaching consequences. When Pattyn reveals her pregnancy to her family upon returning home, her life takes a tragic turn. The weight of her choices becomes overwhelming, leading to a series of events that forever alter the course of her existence.

Following a harrowing chase, Pattyn and Ethan's car crashes, resulting in the loss of both Ethan and their unborn child. Her father disowns her, unable to cope with the devastating events that have transpired. Ellen Hopkins underscores the enduring impact of decisions and their consequences, emphasizing that a single moment of recklessness can alter the trajectory of an entire life.

The Author's Message to Teens

"Burned" by Ellen Hopkins serves a primary purpose—to reach out to teenagers. Through her narrative, Hopkins addresses the challenges, struggles, and desires that resonate with adolescents as they navigate the complexities of growing up. The novel provides a platform for young readers to explore and reflect upon themes that mirror their own experiences.

Ellen Hopkins employs her unique storytelling style to connect with teenagers in a meaningful way. "Burned" is just one of her remarkable novels, each with a profound message that speaks directly to the lives of young adults. Her ability to engage and educate through gripping narratives ensures that her works continue to resonate with readers of all ages.


"Burned" by Ellen Hopkins is more than a novel; it is a profound exploration of themes that resonate deeply with teenagers. The book delves into the challenges of escaping abuse, the complexities of dysfunctional relationships, the quest for self-discovery, the intricacies of love, and the enduring consequences of life-altering decisions. Ellen Hopkins' storytelling prowess and her capacity to connect with young readers make "Burned" a compelling and valuable addition to adolescent literature, offering both entertainment and meaningful life lessons.

Updated: Nov 06, 2023
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An Analysis of Ellen Hopkins' "Burned". (2016, Dec 08). Retrieved from

An Analysis of Ellen Hopkins' "Burned" essay
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