#1 Pure by Julianna Baggott
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:
The Bane by Keary Taylor
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Partials by Dan Wells
Divergent by Veronica Roth
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:
by Niki Hawkes