Book Review: “Pure” by Julianna Baggott

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.

PureI’ve read a lot of different dystopian and post-apocalyptic YA fiction over the past year or two and to be honest a lot of them tend to ultimately drift into the same ground when it comes to character, plot, and theme tropes. Very few of them come up with something new and original. Very few of them come up with something that turns the genre a little bit on its head and makes the reader think in new ways.

So many of these books feature a love triangle, a female protagonist who everyone underestimates, a hidden or mysterious threat, and a confused society looking for its identity. Well, Pure has a few of these things, but if you ask me, Julianna Baggott actually took all of those standard YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic devices and put them to use in the right way. I’ll admit that Pure took me by surprise and kept me guessing a lot more than it had the right to when I started.

Pressia and Partridge start the book in a fairly traditional way for this genre. She is the lonely girl trapped outside the Dome looking for a way to survive. He is the young man inside the Dome looking for a way out. Pressia, like everyone else outside the dome is fused with some sort of inanimate everyday object. In her case, a doll head fused to one of her fists. Partridge has no such fusing as he is part of the “Pures” that live inside the Dome, safe from the effects of the Detonations.

Speaking of the Detonations, they are a rather superb bit of world-building on the part of the author. Some sort of nuclear/atomic weapons mixed with nanotechnology and some other sort of technology to help organic materials mix with inorganic. As a result, so many people in the world are fused to their toys, their cars, even their friends or family members. This has given the world of Pure something robust and at the same time, frightening for the author to work with. There is so much detail in the world-building, much more detail than a lot of YA books receive.

The other big difference between Pure and other YA books of its kind is the brutality that the author lets live in the events. People die. Sometimes people who you have no reason to believe are going to die, die. It’s very reminiscent of George R.R. Martin’s work to be completely honest. This world Baggott has created is hard, cruel, and rather bleak. The characters are just trying to survive and find a way to get to the next sunrise without being overcome by all of it.

I was really skeptical when I bought Pure during a sale on Amazon. It sort of looked like I would be traveling down the same road all over again and the first half of the book had me thinking that was actually going to be the case. I started reading it thinking I just needed to do it justice and get through it so I could move onto the next because I’d paid the money for it. But, was I ever wrong.

Pure is the first book in a trilogy that is likely to be one of the better trilogies I read anytime soon. If you like YA fiction, give this a try, it will be something new and fresh that you haven’t seen in a long time within the genre. I can’t wait to read the next books and see what the conclusion winds up being.

Length: 469 pages

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