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Published:October 20th, 2010 09:50 EST
The  Ellen Hopkins` Novel Burned: a Disappointment

The Ellen Hopkins` Novel Burned: a Disappointment

By Tony Graff

Ellen Hopkins is an author you don`t read to enjoy. Her books are powerful, and offer a raw view of what some people go through. With that in mind, I was sorely disappointed by Ellen Hopkins` novel, Burned. Not that it dealt with sexuality, and the passions every teen is likely to face, but the picture it painted of the Latter Day Saints. 

Being LDS the majority of my life, I have had actual interaction with these people, and a familiarity with their doctrine. That having been said, I feel it`s a duty to correct the author, and clarify what she chose not to. The book presents views of the Church more commonly found in Anti-Mormon literature, which brings to the story of the main character, Pattyn, an over-dramatized mentality, and a fictional view of real people. 

Jabs at the LDS aren`t anything new. There have been derogatory comments about them on That 70`s Show, House MD, and even a PBS documentary. But the ideas Ellen Hopkins presents are twisted enough that people are willing to believe them. The main points presented in Burned are:

1. There is strict control over the literature we read. This is not only inaccurate, but diametrically opposite of the truth. Pattyn lists all the books she has learned to love from the library, and many of them are authors I enjoy. Latter Day Saints are encouraged to read, to find all the great literature thats available. John Bytheway, a popular youth speaker, points out that our lives would be better with less television and more reading. While you aren`t likely to find a Mormon reading the Karma Sutra, there`s are enough good books in the world to last several lifetimes. 

2. Women`s role in the church. Anyone who knows or is friends with a Latter Day Saint knows that women are the most outspoken, and definitely not the subservient baby-machines Ellen Hopkins painted for her readers. There`s no idea of "keeping a wife in check" or "having as many babies as her body is able." Rather, we are counselled that marriage is a union, and one is not greater than the other. Families are to be built on reason, and personal revelation for each couple. The religious leaders do not tell us how big our families have to be to get to heaven, or how many steps a woman has to walk behind her husband. The doctrine is, each gender has unique, but equal roles, and one is not greater than the other. 

3. I`ll call the third point blind-sheep faith. Pattyn admits that she is pretty much damned because she asks questions and refuses to blindly follow. The truth is, each of us are invited and expected to take the information presented to us and seek to understand by spiritual means, and not merely because a teacher or leader has told it to us. Each six months, during the General Conference of the Church, we are invited to again pray and know for ourselves that those leading the Church are doing so by the Lord`s will, and that they are acting in accordance with His direction. 

Reading Burned was a disappointment, though other novels by Ellen Hopkins were much better. All of her books have given a sense of reality, if harsh and painful. Burned presented us with a vicious fiction, and an untruth about people who have done a lot of good across the world.