Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Ever since the dystopian genre has taken off, I've gone off it a bit. The books started feeling like any old concept was grabbed on to and the worlds weren't very thought out or believable. What made The Hunger Games work in my opinion, is that Suzanne Collins tapped into serious issues our society has and showed us their extreme. (and a lot of other stuff, too, but that's a biggie) Even some of the more popular books that have come out over the last couple of years have just not worked for me. So I always feel a little..conflicted when starting a new dystopian, I'm never sure if I'll like it or not.

Also, books that sell huge at auction never seem to quite live up to the hype (has anyone else noticed this?) so Pure was both this book I really really wanted to read and also was a little scared to read. Oh one final thing (don't you love long stories about how I came to read this book?) Julianna Baggott is a Catholic author, a little tidbit I know thanks to Image Journal! Writers who have faith always intrigue me, I kind of prioritize their books. be honest, I've had the ARC since Comic-Con when Florinda was kind enough to give it to me, but what actually pushed me into reading it (considering I barely read anything last year) was Jill's review. Thankfully, I was hooked from the prologue. I mean when does that ever happen? Rarely, that's when.

What I really like about Baggott's writing is how just lovely it is, it's pretty and true. The things she writes sort of create this feeling of either...aching longing or "yes that's true" inside of me. And I like that. It's effective.

Pure is about a world where an atomic bomb has gone off and ruined everything, only it wasn't any old bomb, it was a bomb that had properties that made things fuse together, so all the people on the outside were actually fused together with things in the world around them. I mean, so much so that those things became a part of them. Our heroine, Pressia, was holding a doll at the time and that doll's head actually became her hand. Some people have animals fused to them, or glass, or other things. And some people actually become a part of the earth and lose all the essential parts of what makes them human and become monstrous, feeding on other humans.

But...there's also this place called the dome. The people who live in the dome are not fused to the earth, they are pure. The people outside of the dome are "wretches." The people in the dome were prepared for the destruction of the earth and have things saved up but are also working on even more technology to advance the world. Our hero, Partridge, lives in the dome. But Partridge misses his mother, who didn't survive the blast, and devises a way to escape the dome and look for her.

So it's possible that Pressia and Partridge's paths meet. But I don't call them hero and heroine in any romantic sense, they are just the main characters.

So Pressia is at a very vulnerable stage in life where she's about to get called up to the OSR which is the resistance army. The OSR kills anyone that's useless and she thinks she'll be useless because of her hand. So she tries to escape, but it's possible the OSR has bigger plans for her, and that there's a lot of stuff she doesn't know or understand about the bomb and why the world is the way it is.

I loved little things about this world, like the way their memories of the life before, their stories were the most precious currency they had. A sign of trust was to tell someone your story. I loved that so much, because you know, that's how I feel in life, like when we impart our stories to one another we are sharing the truest parts of who we are. More important than money, or goods, or time. The entire world felt very authentic to me, I could easily visualize it, I didn't have any real questions about it, so in that sense it was very successful.

I also like that this is basically a story about an atomic bomb. I went to both peace museums in Japan, the one in Hiroshima and the one in Nagasaki, they were life changing. And it always grates on me that our World War II stories are so European focused, and that really amazing and excellent books about the bombs in Japan don't get the attention they deserve, such as Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's Hiroshima in the Morning. But Pure while fictional, is going to call to mind the bombs in Japan. I mean the bombs are referenced, but there's also the fact that the heroine is Japanese-American.

And there are ideas in this book, about purity and sacrifice, and the scars we bear and what they mean. There's more reflection on the possibility of God and hope and faith than in most dystopians I read, and strangely it actually called Canticle of Liebowitz to mind in a few different ways. There are a lot of interesting stops along the way in this book and I think it would reward rereading to further explore its depths.

Pure is without doubt the most successful dystopian I've read in a very long time. I look forward to the sequel!

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: maybe a little profanity? violence
Source of Book: ARC from Florinda!
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


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