Pure by Julianna Baggott

PureGoodreads: Pure
Series: Pure #1
Source: Purchased

Official Summary: 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.

Review: Pure is a highly imaginative and thoughtful novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.  The book is focused on issues that will resonate with many children and teens, but does not have a “young” voice or approach to its difficult subject matter.  Baggott assumes her readers are intelligent and prepared to face the issues that Pressia and Partridge do.  She leads readers through a wild, unique world and asks them to think deeply about life, mortality, childhood, and truth.

Pressia and Patridge are both richly developed characters who must adapt quickly to the circumstances of their broken world.  They must define and redefine survival, strength, and trust.  Each grows tremendously throughout the book and will doubtless continue to do so through the series.  Readers are treated to chapters in both of their point of views, as well as two other characters’. Although the POV switches can be surprising at first, as there is no pattern, Baggott thoughtfully explained in a talk that I attended that she writes each chapter from the point of view of the character with the most at stake in the scene.  So far, I think this approach is working well and adds a level of intensity to the novel that might not otherwise be present.

The prose of Pure is haunting and beautiful, and it also helps make the story palatable—at least to readers like me.  I shied away from Pure for awhile, thinking myself too squeamish to handle a novel where characters are fused to objects, animals, and even other characters.  A man with birds embedded in his back?  Gross.  However, Baggott writes the story in a way that these events seem about as natural as they must have become to the characters.  It may be disturbing, but it is possible to overcome repulsion and move on with life.  One gets the sense from Pure that perseverance like this is one of humanity’s greatest strengths.

One of my most highly recommended reads of 2013.

Published: 2012


2 thoughts on “Pure by Julianna Baggott

  1. Andrea Modolo (@Book_lover1988) says:

    I absolutely loved this book! I think it was one of my favourites of 2012, but I haven’t gotten around to reading the sequel yet, hopefully soon! I loved the voices of the characters and I think Julianna Baggott really knew how to write for her audience, I’ve always said a reader is only as smart as the writer makes them out to be. And Julianna definitely makes her readers out to be smart with this story. Can’t wait to see what you think of the second book!


    • Briana says:

      I had the opportunity to buy FUSE at the same time as PURE (and get it signed!) but I didn’t since I didn’t know whether I would like the first book (big mistake!). I also heard Baggott talk and her speech and her answers to the audience questions were so thoughtful–this is basically the reason I bought the book at all (I admit in the review I thought it would be way too disturbing!). I agree completely that PURE is intelligent and assumes the readers are, too.


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