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Conner's Books & Reviews

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Currently reading

The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs
Haruki Murakami
The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Stephen King
Stephen King, Richard Bachman
The Complete Stories
Franz Kafka
Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami
The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso
Dante Alighieri, Robin Kirkpatrick, Eric Drooker
The Purgatorio (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
Dante Alighieri, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Peter Bondanella, Julia Conaway Bondanella
The Interpretation of Dreams (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
Sigmund Freud, A.A. Brill, Daniel T. O'Hara, Gina Masucci MacKenzie


Smoke - Ellen Hopkins The more Ellen Hopkins novels I read, the less I find myself enjoying them. I think what keeps me coming back is the hope that the next thing she writes is going to have the same visceral rawness that I remember from when I first read Crank and Impulse. The more seasoned Hopkins gets as a writer, the further away she gets from that original style that initially drew me in. There's something almost juvenile about the writing, and that used to be ok because it worked with the subject she was writing about. Now that she's trying to take on more expansive plots, the free verse falls apart, even when it is otherwise well-constructed. I can't help but wonder what an Ellen Hopkins novel would look like written in prose. You can tell that her writing has technically improved, so maybe it's time for her to set the free verse aside for a while, because personally, I feel like that is what's holding her back.

This is a sequel to Hopkins' second novel, Burned, which really didn't need a sequel.
This is another case in which the author is going back to an original book that was successful to write an unnecessary sequel in hopes of regaining that momentum. (See: Perfect, the mediocre sequel to Impulse, and the decision to turn Crank into a full-blown trilogy where it was just the same book three times.)
I really did not like these characters. But unlike, for example, Gilian Flynn's characters, who are despicable in a way that forces you to keep reading, here it is in a non-developed and shallow way. There's an overwhelming "us vs them" mentality here, with "them" being everybody that isn't the current narrator. Pattyn's sister, Jackie, unfortunately gets a very large part in this novel, where all she does is whine. I found myself getting more and more annoyed every time I had to switch back over to her perspective. Yes, unpleasant things happened to her in the previous novel. But Jackie is completely resigned to play the victim here; she blows everything out of proportion and her school comes across as a hive of one-dimensional, brainwashed characters that all seem to dedicate a large part of their time to staring at Jackie and caring about her personal business. This is simply not realistic, and frankly, with no real relevance to moving any plot forward, it was really exasperating to have to read. I could not sympathize with her at all, and even worse, after endless pages of whining, she suddenly becomes perfectly fine when she ends up randomly falling in love with some guy (Surprise!). And this actually occurs with both narrators, which in my opinion really ends up canceling out what the author was trying to do here, which is to show the often irreversible effects of physical and sexual abuse, by making it suddenly inconsequential towards the end.

I wouldn't recommend this book over Hopkins' earlier material unless you REALLY want to know what happens after Burned, and if you don't mind sitting through 500+ pages of ruminating free verse that contains almost no plot. Personally, I preferred the ending that was already resolved in my head when I first read Burned.