Smoke (Burned #2) by Ellen Hopkins
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?
Ellen Hopkins is a good writer. She really is. Her book, Crank, is one of my favorites. But, her sequels to it, Glass and Fallout, never live up to it. And that is how I feel about Smoke. A fine book. Just not as good as the first. And, quite honestly, it probably wasn't needed.
At its core. Smoke is about recovering from the past and moving on from it. And that is exactly what Pattyn does. She's on the run after the events of Burned. You see her meet a nice family of immigrants, work as a maid for a wealthy family, and move on with her life before being forced into something much bigger than her. And in this book, you also get to see what happens to Pattyn's family through the eyes of her sister, Jackie. She deals with the aftermath of her own aftermath and life problems. She deals with the loss of her father and falling in love for the first time. The story was dark and depressing at times. It was also very hopeful at points. And it definitely continues the story from Burned with ease. And it wraps up everything with the same sense of ease.
The problem? It felt unnecessary. After finishing Burned the first time, I wasn't the biggest fan of the ending. I felt it was abrupt and out of place. But after rereading it to read this, I liked it a lot more. It felt more fitting. It left the reader to imagine what happened next and to be hopeful for Pattyn. But with Smoke, there is no imagining. It's all wrapped up. And the story itself felt a bit too big and overcrowded. There was a lot going on at times with a lot of different plot points. It was easy to follow, but was a bit much. It covered a lot of ground in very little time. And most of it felt like filler.
The characters were fine. Pattyn and Jackie were fine leads. And most of the side characters fit what they were asked to be. Gavin felt a bit off at points. Angel was a good follow up to Ethan. And I never could get behind the mom. She just didn't feel real. She acted like a villain for most of the book. At the end, she switches points of view. It felt rushed and out of place. And it was obviously happened so everything could be wrapped up and topped with a bow.
Overall, I am torn on how to feel about Smoke. I like it, but I think I would have preferred if it wasn't a sequel to Burned. I would have liked it to be about a whole new batch of characters other than the ones from Burned. I believe it could have been a great book about moving past tragedies and terrible things. I know I would have been happy with Burned being a stand alone book. But neither of those two things are true. And we are left with a perfectly fine book that doesn't live up to its predecessor.
If you liked Burned, I say pick this up. It might have disappointed me a bit, but I think that it is good to finish off the series. It is still a good read. And plus, I am a fan of Hopkins and I will recommend her to anybody.