By: Julianna Baggott
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 8, 2012
Genre/Age: Dystopian (with steampunk elements)*
Source: ARC from Around the World ARC Tours
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 feelings 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.
Pure is a gorgeous dystopian novel, set just a few years after a nuclear explosion in the United States. The population is divided into Pures and Wretches; Pures live in the Dome and remain “intact” and unblemished, while Wretches were exposed to the detonation and now have various mutations. Pressia is one of the Wretches; Partridge is a Pure who has ventured outside the Dome. Neither of them is prepared for what happens when they meet.
Baggott’s world-building is absolutely fantastic, and the setting she has created feels so real and gritty. You can almost feel the ash settling around you as you read. The idea behind the story is also so unique and interesting. The people who were outside the Dome at the time of the Detonations all fused in some way to something they were touching at the time, which makes for a fascinating cast of characters. Mothers who were holding children are now permanently attached, people have animals or other objects embedded in them, some people even fused with the earth. Pressia herself has a doll head instead of a hand. Each time we met someone new I was eager to see what their mutation was going to be, and I loved the creativity of each one.
Pure is mostly told through the alternating perspectives of Pressia and Partridge, but there are also chapters told from the point of view of various other characters. Though potentially confusing, this assortment of perspective serves to flesh out the story even more and I really enjoyed getting to learn things and see the world through other viewpoints.
At just under 450 pages, Pure is a pretty hefty book and the pace is fairly slow-moving. While in some ways this helped to create the tone of the story, I also feel like a quarter of it probably could have been cut out and nothing would have been lost storywise. The plot is interesting enough that I wasn't ever really bored, it’s just not edge-of-your-seat thrilling the way some dystopian novels are; it feels like more of a meandering journey. I’ll admit that I’m hoping for the pace to pick up in the next book.
With a gorgeous setting, intriguing characters, and a unique steampunk dystopian twist, Pure is a fantastic look into a United States of the future, and I can’t wait to read more.
*Just a note about the age range for Pure, I’ve seen it marketed as Young Adult in some places but not in others, so I’m not exactly sure how to classify it. It’s definitely appropriate for the young adult age range, and the main characters are teenagers, but the tone of the story feels more like an adult novel than young adult. Not trying to put anybody off reading it, I just wanted to point it out.