Ellen Hopkins is one of my favorite authors so when I got a chance to read an advance copy of Smoke I knew I was in for a treat. Smoke is the squeal to Burned, which was published in 2006. Smoke continues the storyline of Burned in much the same format as the first, the one main difference being that Smoke alternates viewpoints between Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, the protagonist of the first book, and her younger sister, Jackie.
For me the alternating viewpoints was the strongest point of the book. While Pattyn’s storyline does continue nicely from the first book I don’t think that the squeal would have worked as well as it did if it had been told strictly from her point of view. While the two sisters’ stories are separate in the sense that they are taking place in different parts of the country, they are still very much connected. I felt that Smoke really gave Jackie a chance to shine and be her own person as opposed to just a supporting character for Pattyn. It’s interesting to see how each sister responds to both being away from each other and dealing with the new lives they are forced to live because of the events that occurred in Burned.
The new characters introduced in Pattyn’s story line and well developed and it’s enjoying to follow Adriana, as well as the other new characters, as they spend time with Pattyn. Pattyn’s story line feels like a trip back in time in a way because of the migrant worker lifestyle she is living. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book because it’s not something that I typically associate with 2013 so it was interesting to see how it is still present today.
One thing that I think could have been better was that the story picked up very quickly, which while good in some aspects, left me a little lost for a while. The two books have a several year publishing gap between them which meant that as much as I loved Burned, some of its details had been forgotten by the time I got to read Smoke. Still this is a very minor thing that can easily be remedied by re-reading Burned before picking up Smoke.
Overall Smoke is an extremely strong squeal and I would highly recommend it to any fans of Ellen Hopkins. As with all Ellen Hopkins’s book this Smoke is best suited for older teens.
-Angela J., 12th grade