Ellen Hopkins sizzles, as her young adult readers know. However, her books are not just for young adults. As an adult reviewer, I find her prose verse tantalizing and terse, fast and furious – and surrounding the frame of her stories about abuse and the reality of teenagers with a beauty that startles. I wish I had Ellen Hopkins to read as a teenager, as I was one of her lost teens – and had no one to tell me that it had happened to others. Even more importantly than Hopkins talents and breathtaking authenticity is her readability: she is one of our most important writers writing today.
I had not read Burn, and Smoke is the sequel to Burn. The story is set in a Mormon household of seven daughters. Pattyn Von Stratten is the oldest, Jackie, the second oldest. Mom is a typical addicted to her husband mother. She watches as her alcoholic husband severely abuses his daughters, and hides behind the Mormon code of stand by your man. Does the Mormon background matter? No, as religion is not Hopkins’s theme. Catholic, Jewish, Muslim: her stories are about abuse, parents who simply cannot care about their children as they are narcissists, and the commonality of children who have no one to go to, and are unloved. This theme is one we should stand up and applaud as our society almost applauds the dictum of these parents.
Secrecy is also the theme, as all abuse survivors know. Ellen Hopkins chooses to advocate for these girls, and to me she is not only an exquisitely talented writer, but also a writer who reaches us – all of us – as we have all been there.
When Stephen Paul Von Stratten dies, Pattyn flees for her life. The gun in Pattyn’s hands is the gun that killed him. As Pattyn ends up in Nevada she becomes a waitress, befriends Angel, a Mexican American migrant worker, and hides. Jackie, left behind in California, dissociates the death. And her Mormon community, and her mother, blame her instead of defending her, as Jackie finds herself alone and hated by her friends and Church.
As the two sisters find their way out of their abyss they find each other, and the friendship of others, as they tell their truth in the end.
Hopkins genius is not only in her writing.
My granddaughter has read everything Hopkins has ever written. I am so glad that our teenagers have a writer who defends them and allows them options when they are alone, and faced with situations that are impossible for even adults. Great writing, and a great big Review Broads 5 stars for Ellen Hopkins, who gives a voice and courage to victims of abuse, rape, incest and homophobia at every age.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
Smoke is available on Amazon.com and booksellers nationwide