Monday, 19 August 2013

Pure - Julianna Baggott Review

Genre: YA/Adult Dystopian
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 431
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Pure is bleak, it really is. Startlingly so. It's a highly original and shocking dystopian set-up when set next to the YA market, and it has really powerful moments. and it's not what I thought it would be when I first saw it mentioned.It is a work of fiction that pares back all the lies to show an unflinching version of the truth. Inspired by nuclear warfare and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I found it frighteningly authentic and meaningful.

The world Baggott builds is brutal, devastating and phenomenally beautiful. Pressia's little ornaments, her  wire birds and butterflies, stand out as pinpricks of light in a desolate world. 

The author has the power to get us into the heads of her characters, to understand what makes them tick. We can go from liking the main characters to hating them to loving them in the space of one book, but they will always be far more real than we would care to admit. 

Partridge, a male lead and a Pure (as opposed to Pressia and Bradwell who are fused, wretches), has now become my fictional crush. I fell in love with him (and lived vicariously through Pressia's eyes to see him) when he was first introduced.  I could sympathize with him, imagining having to adjust to a completely new world outside his sheltered life in the Dome. He's like a child at first, utterly vulnerable in this dangerous new world that he's escaped into. But he copes admirably and becomes a brave, capable character (even if he is eclipsed by Bradwell in the end). 

I have to say though, I didn't like the amount of tropes used here. There's a simply ridiculous amount, and that includes the whole half-siblings thing and the not-actually-dead trope and '{Insert name here}, I am your mother'. But I could get over that. My one major gripe is this: it shouldn't be a series. I loved the book, I really respect and admire it. I don't care if it would have had to be an 800-page book, I wanted the sense of finality that would have fit so well with the theme. It doesn't need to be dragged out. Maybe that's a wise move commercially, but when faced with the vitally important issue behind this book I believe it should be a standalone. Not only are standalones refreshing, this book just deserved to be one. The only thing YA about it is the ages of the characters, and so I fear that the teenage protagonists will just becoming annoying in a series. And because of the way the blurb introduced them, I was really surprised when Pressia and Partridge didn't become love interests. 

But believe me, I'm only wishing it was a standalone because I loved it so much. Tough love. 
And for the record, the world-building was my absolute favourite thing about this whole book/series. I don't care what happens next, the world will still be beautifully imagined. It is a pity that the things she describes so elegantly are so repulsive.Four stars. And Pure? You deserve your place on Time's most notable books of 2012 list. 


  1. Eeek, this sounds totally freaky and bleak! But I guess that's exactly what you want when you're reading a dystopian. It SHOULD be that depressing. Probably what bothers me most about books like The Selection, which is way too fluffy to be classified as a dystopian, in my opinion. So yeah, the world building sounds fantastic. I would probably feel the same about prolonging the story to a series though. Anyways, great thoughts!

    1. Yeah, it was an education in dystopia! Hm, I should check out The Selection, I'll probably agree. Oh, it was <3 Thanks!


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