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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Pure by Julianna Baggott 
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Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian, 431 pages
Published February 8th 2012 by Grand Central Publishing
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.

Whyyyyyyy is this review just now going up? I vlogged about it in DECEMBER. (Well, technically January, but it was my December Rewind). OH I REMEMBER. I was going to put my review of Pure up at the same time Fuse came out...which was last week. Thanks, Brain.

Alright, so: I was really pleasantly surprised by Pure. Not that I was expecting to be disappointed by it, but there's just been such a glut of dystopias and post-apocalyptics for the last few years, and I've learned not oto expect to much... (which is really hard, as it's my favorite genre and I can't help but add these books to my TBR - even when I have suspicions they're going to be crap.) But I've begun pretending to myself that I don't have high hopes anymore (lie), and as I had heard both really, really good and really not so good things about Pure before picking it up, I was curious how I would react to it. As it turns out, it very nearly made it into my top reads of 2012 chat, so clearly I needn't have worried.

I think the first thing that really impressed me about Pure is that Baggott analyzed things the way I do. The little, seemingly inconsequential bits of everyday life, and how those would change in a post-apocalyptic setting, generally go ignored in PA books, and this bothers me. It may sound like the most absurd, nit-picky thing ever, but I have been waiting for an author to think these tiny things through, and Baggot did. Silly little phrases we use now have lost meaning for the new generation in Pure, as they have no frame of reference. So, when an older character uses one of these phrases, the younger characters are puzzled by them, or flat-out just don't know what they mean. I'm really not exaggerating when I say I've been waiting for this. It's something I've always kind of focused in on with dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, and I can't help but be irritated when a character uses a really anachronistic phrase or word that just doesn't fit with what their world is now. Things should lose meaning. This is not our world. Sure, some phrases and words will stick around even when all context for them is gone (we have those types of phrases now); but at some point, people just aren't going to say things that make no sense in their world. Because Pure has an abrupt shift in world paradigm, it makes sense that the younger characters are going to be confused by phrases they no longer have a context for. Baggott points this out (subtly) and I could have cheered/cried with the at last-ness of it. It makes the world so much more believable in a really understated, logical way.

The other thing that impressed me is that this book is really weird. It's super dark and bleak. It's really, really bleak, and not like it's trying too hard to be dark, but just like it is. This world is dark, that's just the way it is. (I mean, it's post-apocalyptic, so...) And it is hella weird. If you haven't read the premise, basically the characters live in a world where, after a catastrophic event, survivors were molecularly fused with anything in too-close a proximity. Things become a part of you, you become a part of things. There's no way to fix it, no way to reverse it. One instant, you're you; the next, you're you plus the pretty little kitty cat you reached down to pet. This is your life now... The main character has a doll's head for a hand, and she can make its eyes blink. (shudder) There's a boy with birds wings flapping on his back. People fused to other people, people fused to animals. People fused to mothereffing dust, I kid you not. They're like a human sandstorm, and it is CREEPY. All of this takes a HUGE willing suspension of disbelief, of course, but  it is totally worth it if you're able to just go with it. All of this really dark, bleak weirdness made Pure unlike anything else I've read. It's inventive and unsettling, and I really have to hand it to Baggott that she was somehow able to make this work.

I did feel, though, that it falls apart a little at the end. Most of the book is very slow-burning and almost dense; it certainly wasn't something I flew through, even though I consistently enjoyed it. But at the end, when the giant human-dustball snowball's at its apex and about to come barrelling down on you, things sort of fall apart. Baggott just can't quite handle when the shit hits the fan, and things become a little bit muddled. Everything suddenly becomes too easy and happens way too fast, and there are too many characters and motivations and things in too short a span. The storytelling is a little overwhelmed by it all - which is especially jarring after this very slow-building, very not-easy story. Also, personally, I didn't need any little bit of romance in this, but alas... At least it wasn't too all-consuming. The story is still impressive, though, and I'll certainly be reading more of the series.Though it's a little too convenient in its "local" scope (everyone needed or important is pretty easily at-hand), it is very impressive in its story-scope and its bleakness. The far-reaching breadth of the story, the way Baggott touches on the factors of our society that led up to this cataclysmic event without being heavy handed or didactic, these things all really worked. Baggot doesn't beat the reader over the head with anything, but all of these little tidbits are there for readers who like to suss them out; they're just there, they just are, and I was really impressed by that. Highly recommended for those who are looking for something different and darker than what's generally found.


  1. I'm definitely all for dark and unique dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, and what you said about the anachronistic phrases not making sense to the younger generation. That's the kind of attention to detail I really like. It is a shame this fell apart toward the end, though.

  2. It didn't COMPLETELY fall apart, Renae; it's just in comparison to the rest of the book, the end wasn't as strong. Still good, but too rushed.

  3. Agreed - loved this dark book - it was so hard to read at times. But the ending did a feel a bit ... less well put together than the rest of the book. But still, it left me interested in reading the next book in the series.

    Tanya Patrice
    <a href="http://www.girlxoxo.com'>Girlxoxo.com</a>

  4. I was so not interested in this book but after reading this...I really want to read it. I love what you said about the details and how the world is not how we know it in an apocalyptic setting. I also love dark and bleak.

  5. I'd be really curious what you thought of it, actually. If you DO read it, definitely let me know!

  6. Pure was amazing, thank you for the recommendation! JB's writing is beautiful like yours, and I appreciated the darkness of it all. I can't wait for DOBAS!

    Marlene Detierro (Photo Booth Rentals)


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