Author: Julianna Baggott
Series: Pure #1
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: 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.
World-Building: the world building was actually pretty creative. Baggott essentially re-created the parameters for our world and, as a result, had to come up with new rules for how people were forced to interact with one another and the unforgiving environment around them. Her evolution of the world was raw, gritty, and filled with the unexpected. She essentially changed the biological aspects by which people are composed and backed it up with some feasible science – I love it when authors do that.
Character: There are multiple viewpoint characters in this book. I’ve mentioned before that the only way for many viewpoints to work for me is if they are each contributing towards the story’s progression. Every scene where we switch perspectives must add something to the overall arc of the story. It was handled quite well in this case, and I liked how each scene gave us a little more information about what was going on.
Story: The basic storyline was a major strength for me, mostly because it included what I’m going to call a “rose-petal” plot. Important things were revealed in layers (which is normally called a layered or “onion” plot) which is not an uncommon tool, but in this case the layers were pulled back quite delicately, little by little – no onion around here. I liked how subtle it was, I liked how there was no false tension or people withholding information, and I genuinely enjoyed discovering what was going on with the characters. I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen writing tool used this well.
Writing: I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book written in third person present tense before. I found it a bit odd, to be honest. The voice didn’t blend into the background like most third person perspectives do (which was a bit distracting on occasion), but it also lacked the emotional involvement I usually feel with present tense writing. It’s almost as if combining these two writing styles negates all the benefits that, in theory, they should be enhancing. I think this was the main reason why I felt rather impartial to the characters through most of the story and couldn’t help but wonder how much more of an impact it would have had had she chosen a different style.
That’s not to say her writing was weak. She had many passages of beautiful and often gut-wrenching description. Her writing set a very distinct tone for the story, showcased some truly beautiful imagery, showed us what’s important to the characters without rubbing our noses in it, and wowed me with her ability to pull back the layers of the plot so delicately. I would love the chance to appreciate her voice in another format.
Pacing: Pacing was really difficult for me to discern in this book – and I think it had something to do with the odd writing style choice. It kept me so impartial that I couldn’t really feel the highs and lows that normally come from adventure, danger, wonder, and romance. It kept me at a distance to the point where everything sort of flat-lined for most of the book. Logically, I could see were things sped up and slowed down, but I couldn’t feel it. And that’s a problem.
Marketing: this book is officially categorized in the adult fiction section of the bookstore I work at. As fiction is not my usual forte, I might have overlooked this one entirely if I hadn’t stumbled upon the second book while doing research for my “upcoming releases” feature. All I have to say is, thank goodness for catchy covers.
The storyline initially sounded like a typical teen dystopian novel, so as I read I tried to keep an eye out for anything that would explain why it wasn’t marketed as a teen book. At first, I thought perhaps maybe it was going to be too violent – but then I considered how much more violent it can get than children slaughtering each other in an arena for the amusement of the Capitol. Then, I thought maybe the story was too gritty and frightening – but then I considered how much more disturbing and intense things got while reading about an alien invasion in a series of five waves. Okay then, maybe it has to do with language – but then I remembered a sarcastic, blue haired girl from an upcoming sequel of a teen dystopian (about, ironically, genetically mutated teens) dropping the F-bomb every couple of pages, and I know that’s out.
Everything I thought might have at one point made publishers wary of introducing to a teen audience turned out to be unfounded. My point? Perhaps this one should of been marketed differently to better reach its ideal demographic – teens. Besides, we all know us “adults” are devouring more of these books then actual teens, anyway. :)
Recommendations: While not my favorite dystopian on the market, it definitely was an enjoyable addition to the genre. I don’t see any reason why teens can pick this one up but would probably recommend it to those who prefer “action” dystopians like Hunger Games and The Fifth Wave over “romance” dystopian’s like Matched and Delirium.
Other books you might like:
Discussion time! (May contain spoilers):
Who was your favorite character and why?
100% – Partridge. Of all the characters, I felt the most connected to him. I appreciated how brave he was and how love for his mother drove him unfalteringly, despite the sacrifices he had to make along the way.
Did anything surprise you in the story?
El Captain – when he was first introduced, I was actually a bit disappointed. I was expecting him to be a typical one-note villain that the author would keep bouncing to just to show us how “evil” yet “justified” he was. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be a rather complex and totally human character. The author gained a lot of respect for me with this one.
What was your favorite/least favorite part of the book?
My favorite and least favorite parts of the book were actually the same thing: the atmosphere. I love how totally immersed into the setting I felt the entire time and the author did a great job setting the stakes in this world and showing us the dangers within it. It was incredibly well done, with pops of beauty that shone like beacons through the pages (i.e., the little mechanical creatures Pressia created). The reason it was my least favorite is that it was gloomy, gritty, and downright depressing. I stopped reading it right before bed because I think it was giving me bad dreams.
Where would you shelve this book? Adult fiction or teen dystopian?
As stated above, I don’t think this book would be out of place at all in the teen section.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the review – I had a lot of fun composing it.
The questions are meant to generate conversation, so feel free to answer any or all in the comments area. :-)’s
Here’s a link to the world’s coolest librarian who read along with me and made this month my favorite Pick for Nik! ever! Check out her review at:
Ok so I just finished this!! And first of all GREAT review!!
So this book is shelved in the YA section at my library and I would probably aim it at teens or others (like us) who like dystopian reads. The main characters are all in their teens and I didn’t feel like it was overly violent/graphic/offensive, so in my opinion it’s more of a YA book.
Now favorite character…I’d have to go with Bradwell. I think he’s got kind of that bad boy edge I tend to like in characters with the standard soft spot for the girl he cares about. However, I actually really liked Pressia too. She wasn’t whiny and helpless nor was she too strong independent like a lot of other female characters; she had a very nice balance.
I agree with being surprised by El Capitan turning out to be a good guy…totally didn’t see that one coming. I really enjoy his character too!
Sorry for the novel on your wall :) I will be back to comment more tomorrow night after I get a chance to write my review…
First of all, thank you for reading this along with me – it made the experience a lot more fun! :-)
I’m glad to hear you’re not the only one who would categorize it as young adult, and apparently your library is a lot more on top of their game then the bookstore I work at, LOL. It was definitely edgy, but nothing that teens couldn’t handle.
I really like the fact that you picked a different favorite character than me, as I find a constantly fascinating how different characters appeal to different people. I think the bad boy edge tends to throw me off a character rather than endear me to him. However, your arguments for why Pressia was a great character made me look at her in a new light – she really does have the best of both worlds, and that’s kind of cool. I still wish it’d been written in first person… I feel like I could’ve connected so much better with these people then.
Don’t apologize for the novel – I appreciate how much thought you put into answering my prompt questions. Once you write your review, I’ll put a link to it at the end of mine so people can see your thoughts as well (I actually have been considering making that a perk of participating – you put in the work, too, so I think people who follow this feature should have a chance to see your review).
A day late (and my review will probably come later tonight but I’ll let you know when it’s up…is your e-mail on here somewhere?).
I agree that writing it in first person would have helped. I didn’t get that “urge” to read it constantly. I could put it down and it didn’t bother me and I couldn’t figure out why, but I think you’re right that it not being written in first person detracted from that essential connection to at least one of the characters. That’s not something I usually pay attention to, but I definitely will start now. Do some books switch characters, but have one in first person and one in third?
You should maintain that your reviews are never late – they arrive precisely when they mean to. ;-)
I have read several that start out in first person with one character then switch to third with all the others – it works well in the sense that we know which character was meant to be the focus, but at the same time I find it steals a little momentum away from the focus character when it switches to third – almost like we are taking a break from the “main” story. The Fifth Wave utilized first-person for each viewpoint character and luckily it had a different enough voice for each one that it worked brilliantly. I have read a few that did this where each perspective kind of sounded the same so I kept forgetting whose turn it was. With multiple characters, I’ve seen it done most successfully with third person… less confusion, and all.
I don’t think my email is on the webpage, but if you get an email every time I respond to a comment, you might be able to reply to that. Don’t worry, though, because I signed up for your blog emails (I kept missing your posts) so as soon as you publish it, it will hit my inbox. :-)
I was so excited about this one when I first heard about it before it came out then I forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me, it sounds really good. I’ll keep in mind what you said about the genres!
Alise @ Readers in Wonderland
I’m glad to have it back on your radar – it was an extremely entertaining book. Especially if you’re in the mood for something slightly different. :-)
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