“Evocative, Intense, & Well Written”
In a world where dystopian novels have become trendy, Pure is stands out as both trendy and smart. Julianna Baggott has published a multitude of works on the genre spectrum, children’s (The Anybodies, The Prince of Fenway Park as N.E. Bode), literary fiction (The Madam, The Miss America Family), and poetry (Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees, Lizzie Borden in Love: Poems in Women’s Voices), but it is her literary side that shines through in this fantasy, adult/YA crossover. Baggott highlights the difference between elegant subtlety and the common oversimplification that is popular among young adult novels and reminds us that literary fiction isn’t reserved for adults. Her voice and sentence quality are refreshing as she writes of Pressia, “She glances back before stepping into the alley, and she catches her grandfather looking at her the way he does sometimes–as if she’s already gone, as if he’s practicing sorrow.”
Pure tells the story of teenage Pressia, a girl living in a post-apocalyptic world, knowingly separated from the “Pures,” those who were safe in the Dome at the time of the detonations, like Partridge. Pressia lives outside, where the survivors are fused to whatever materials were near them, making her doll-hand normal. Her sixteenth birthday is approaching, looming like a death sentence. She will be made a soldier or she will be killed, leaving her no choice. She runs and so begins our adventure.
Pressia teams up with a fellow survivor Bradwell, who says, “We each have a story. They did this to us. There was no outside aggressor. They wanted an Apocalypse. They wanted the end. And they made it happen.” As Bradwell becomes a stronger presence in the novel, there are hints of a love triangle between Pressia, Partridge, and Bradwell, currently all-the-rage among young adult best sellers. As the story progresses and secrets are revealed, these relationships leave YA behind and counter with all the complexities of more realistic, adult fiction relationships.
The book alternates between many points of view, contrasting the lives of the outsiders like Pressia, those like Partridge, safe in the safe in the Dome, and even a government officer in El Capitan. Their exploits lead us to new characters that slowly reveal the story’s political nature and liberal agenda. The references to the Before, the time before the detonations when the Scottish, Japanese, and Irish existed along with Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and airports, reflect a world that readers will be familiar with. The commentary on our real world society unfolds with the story of the Dome, the story of the rich and powerful versus the poor and the weak. The author successfully weaves a relevant, literary tale in a commercial format.
The book’s tone is set in chapter one as Pressia listens to the far off grumblings of a Death Spree. “She knows that whispers can be useful. Sometimes they contain real information. But usually they’re fairy tales and lies. This is the worst kind of whisper, the kind that draws you in, gives you hope.”
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