Every time I review an Ellen Hopkins book, I start the review with “Ellen Hopkins is brilliant.” This review is no exception. Ellen Hopkins is still a brilliant poet, and this book is wonderful.
Smoke is a novel-in-verse and the sequel to Burned. It continues the story of two sisters, Pattyn and Jackie Von Stratten. Pattyn is on the run from the police, and Jackie is left to clean up the wreckage that Pattyn left behind.
Smoke picks up right where Burned left off. The action starts immediately and doesn’t really slow down. This is a super-fast read. Even though it’s over 500 pages, I easily finished it in a day. The poems are beautifully written, and there is a large enough verity of them that they don’t feel repetitive. I was completely engrossed in the story, and I am so happy that it has a hopeful ending. The ending of Burned is very depressing. I’m glad that some of the characters’ issues are resolved in the sequel.
Just like with Burned, Ellen Hopkins does an amazing job of showing the results of religious abuse. It’s a topic that isn’t discussed often. I think that most authors wouldn’t be brave enough to approach it. I know that Burned and Smoke are both criticized for being anti-Mormon, but I don’t see them that way. I see them as anti-religious abuse and anti-religious extremism. Abuse can happen within any religion, and these books are a great way to get people talking about the issue.
My only criticism of Smoke is the lack of character development. Pattyn and Jackie’s boyfriends are both too perfect for my tastes. I would have liked them to be more realistically flawed. I also think the mother could have used more development. Some of her behaviors and decisions are difficult to understand without knowing her better.
Despite the lack of character development, I love this book. I think I love all of Ellen Hopkins’s books. If you haven’t read one, you really should.