Book Reviews

[review] Pure – Julianna Baggott

Release Date: February 8, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Finished copy received from publisher

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.

Tell Me More: The sudden influx of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels over the past year has made contemplating the future rather terrifying. Most plots center on the things we take for granted and lose–freedom, safety, emotion. The main characters in many of these books often live comfortable lives, before coming face to face with something outside their experience. It’s that catalyst that begins an “epic saga” that will change the world forever. As much as I thought the characters needed a bit more vibrancy, Pure does answer to the call of the dystopian epic in a massive way, by pointing the finger at our governments’ actions today.

Pure suffers from what I personally like to call the Tolkien Syndrome: an overwhelming amount of description and detail in otherwise lackluster scenes. Note that I didn’t say the writing was horrible, nor were the descriptions poor. Tolkien was a wonderful writer, but he also had a tendency of describing blades of grass on a mountain individually for paragraphs on end. Baggott’s strength lies in this love of detail, and her world comes alive because of it. Unfortunately, because there is so much that she chooses to describe about Pressia’s world, the pacing of the novel takes a huge hit. Getting through the novel took me longer than I thought it would, simply because I had to keep stopping when I got bored with the slow-to-nonexistent movement. Plodding through the story takes more patience than what most YA readers may be used to giving, so it only makes sense for me to recommend this as an adult novel.

As for the plot itself, readers won’t see much action until about halfway through the novel, a point which some of my fellow readers confess they never reached before giving up. Once it begins, however, Pure takes off running. The theme of the story I found most interesting was the consideration of nuclear warfare and its consequences. As children born in the late 1900s, we are all very familiar with the fallout of World War II, and if last week’s North Korean nuclear launch is any indication, there is a healthy fear among the world’s populations of what could happen in a nuclear war. Power and control have become overwhelming forces in society, and each day brings a new limit to push. I was highly impressed with the message Baggott chooses to tie into her story, and her writing is a chilling testament to her talent. Here’s hoping the following books are also infused with that same strength and honesty.

The Final Say: Though it may require more of a commitment than other novels, Pure is a worthwhile read which will leave you looking at our society through a clearer lens.

About Julianna

Also writes under the pen names N.E. Bode and Bridget Asher.

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Julianna Baggott is the author of eighteen books, most notably her recent novel PURE, the first in a dystopian trilogy, a New York Times Book Review’s Editor’s Choice and a People magazine pick for books to read after the Hunger Games, on a list with Orson Scott Card and Philip Pullman. There are over fifty overseas editions of her books.

She teaches at Florida State University, and is co-founder of the nonprofit Kids in Need – Books in Deed, getting free books to underprivileged kids in Florida. She’s married to David G.W. Scott and has four kids.

Add Pure on Goodreads | Follow Julianna on Twitter @jcbaggott | Visit Julianna’s website | Order Pure from The Book Depository and Chapters


4 replies »

  1. I think it’s interesting that the novel points a finger at current government actions. I believe a good dystopian novel is always a comment on the present day and I sometimes feel a lot of YA dystopia looses sight of that and simply focuses on making the world horrendous without any sort of social commentary. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t feel like “dystopia” then. But enough rambling.

    This book sounds really interesting and I am usually appreciative of long descriptions so I will definitely be checking it out at some point.

  2. I was asking about this book last night on twitter. I couldn’t remember the name of this book though I remembered the general outline of the story. No one answered me and then I saw your review in my emails so I’m glad you reviewed this. I’m a bit disappointed at how it sounds. Not sure if I’ll give it a try. I don’t like every blade of grass described and tend to skip that so I’d miss a lot of the book. Good review.


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