Author: Julianna Baggott
Release Date: February 8, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pressia Belze lives in a haunted, cloudy world. She doesn’t remember much before the nuclear detonations; after all, she was just a young girl when they occurred. Now, she lives with her grandfather, deformed like everyone else who survived the nuclear holocaust. With Pressia’s sixteenth birthday approaching, she knows she will become a target, and that she must leave soon. She dreams of the Dome, a beacon of hope and resentment, where the Pures, unaffected by the horrors of the nuclear fallout, live. But when a Pure named Partridge escapes the Dome, everything changes. Pressia and Partridge must work together to uncover the secrets of their world before it’s too late.
Pure is a grim depiction of life after a nuclear holocaust. There are survivors, yes, but they are deformed and twisted. Pressia is lucky - her deformity is limited to a scar on her face and a doll’s head in place of her hand, but others must deal with being bonded to living animals or even mothers to their own children. It’s sickening to read and serves to underscore the dark nature of this world that Pressia lives in. Baggott builds her world expertly, making sure the reader understands that there is no no hope here, only despair. Her descriptions are amazingly detailed, and the reader can picture this twisted place in all its grisly detail.
Baggott’s characters are equally well written. Pressia is a teenager, yes, but there is nothing about her that is young and innocent. She’s seen too much of the world, too much hurt and despair, for her to be such a tender age. At the same time, though, she takes pleasure in such small things: her grandfather’s company, a pair of sturdy boots. It makes the reader ache for her, that she has been denied so much and lives in such a places of horrors. Pressia is strong, yet vulnerable, and she only becomes more appealing as the novel progresses.
World building is a huge part of Pure; readers must understand the dark nature of the post-apocalyptic world in order to understand the resentment much of the population feels towards Pures and the Dome. Baggott does an excellent job with this, but because it’s so detailed and the reader must get a sense of Pressia’s daily life, the novel is long. I hesitate to say it’s overly long because this exposition and description is wonderful for really understanding the book (and likely the trilogy) overall, but Pure definitely meanders. For much of the novel, it’s difficult to say where it’s going, or if it’s going anywhere at all. It moves slowly, at its own pace, though it never lost my interest.
Pure is a worthy addition to the vast (and ever-growing) collection of post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels. Though the main character is just sixteen, this is not a young adult novel. The themes, the emotions, the descriptions are very adult, and older readers will appreciate the lack of any sort of teenage angst. This is a dark novel that can be difficult to read because of the disturbing descriptions, yet it is definitely worth your time. Baggott is building towards something amazing, and I look forward to seeing what she does with the next book in this trilogy.