May 26, 2012

Review: Pure

Julianna Baggott
 Pure #1
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic
Rating: 4.5

'Burn a Pure and breathe the ash.
Take his guts and make a sash.
Twist his hair and make a rope.
Use his bones to make Pure soap.'

When I first picked up Pure I was relieved. My review queue was a mile high and I was looking forward to a fast-paced YA read. With all the great press this book has gotten, I figured it was going to be highly addicting and a nice diversion from all the so-so books I had been slogging through recently. Quick and dirty. Easy Breezy. In retrospect, I don't know if anything could have prepared me for Pure.

My initial reaction to Pure was frustration, confusion, and morbid fascination. I hated the narrative perspective. The third-person present tense completely threw me off and made the experience that much more grating. ie. "Pressia is waiting..." I kept thinking, "Who writes like that?" and "Why write like that?" I even considered updating my Goodreads status to make a point as, "Jess is thinking she does not like this book..." I wondered if this was some strange attempt at making "stream of consciousness" the new literary fad, but no, Pure was still understandable, just frustrating. The strange world I had been tossed into without warning had me struggling to acclimate and I spent the first quarter of the book in aggravated confusion. 

Then something strange happened. I couldn't even tell you exactly when, but I began to become attached to the characters and the story was slowly drawing me in by taunting me with little peeks at the big picture. Once the main male character Partridge leaves the Dome and begins to experience the outside world, I had a truly awesome lightbulb moment. What I realized was, Baggott meant for her readers to be confused at first. The strange and disturbing elements of the alien world created by the detonations is shocking and the true gravity of the consequences of nuclear warfare could not be better related to readers than to force them to feel it for themselves. 

While this book is classified as young adult fiction because it follows teenaged characters, it carries a much more graphic and intense nature than most book in the genre. I have seen reviewers classify this book as "icky" or "just gross", but let's be honest here. What did you expect? This book chronicles the struggles and survival of individuals who have been deeply scarred, mutated, and even fused to the world around them.  The weight of the message this story carries was meant to challenge your way of thinking and immerse you in a world where teenagers must be brave, strong, and decisive as opposed to the often more fickle nature of YA characters. Do I recommend this book for everyone. Absolutely not. There are scenes that made me cringe from their graphicness and scenes that I never saw coming from a young adult title. I'm not talking about sexual content. The novel is very mild in that aspect with mostly a chaste kiss that is few and far between. I'm talking about gore and death. There is a particular twist at the end (I won't spoil it for you) that completely shocked me with it's disturbing abruptness. That being said, it felt completely right within the context of the story. As an adult, I was elated that Baggott was not afraid to truly express the gritty, dark nature of her world.

The Final Verdict
Pure is a hauntingly brilliant story that combines the impact of more literary dystopia with the sneaky addictiveness of modern day young adult fiction. This is a story I will not soon forget and I look forward to future volumes in this series with hungry anticipation. I would recommend this book to adult fans of YA and dystopia and more mature teens.

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