Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: February 8th, 2012
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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
I should start this review by saying that I think Julianna Baggott is an extremely talented author, particularly when it comes to her world-building and attention to detail. I loved her Anybodies series (written under her pen name, N.E. Bode) and her fabulous MG fantasy, The Ever Breath. When I saw Pure on NetGalley, I was all over it because I just knew she would do an amazing job with the genre (Dystopia). As usual, I was right! (ha,ha) I typically don't read much adult fiction, and this book was classified as such, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had to give it a go. I have to say, I'm not sure why it was classified as such. It was much more YA to me. Yes, she definitely developed the characters and plot points in this book a bit more than I find in most YA books, but the characters were teens and it read very much like The Hunger Games or Legend by Marie Lu; definitely some more mature themes, but not such that they would push into the "adult" classification. If anything, I would say it's YA with great adult crossover potential.
In the end I thought this book was extremely good; possibly one of the best dystopias I've read in a long time... HOWEVER, this book was extremely slow to start. It took me 11 days to read it and eight of those 11 were spent on the first 130 pages. If I hadn't already been a fan of the author, I probably would have given up on it. (The slow start was the ONLY reason I couldn't give this book a 5-star rating.) I stayed with it though, and I am so glad I did! It ended up totally making up for the slow start, and then some. It was a action-packed, emotional ride that was full of bizarre and unfathomable characters. The ideas and conspiracy theories in this book are so far-fetched that they're plausible, if that makes any sense... Julianna Baggott definitely did her research on the scientific aspects of this book, and she really opens your eyes to the the effects of nuclear war in her descriptions of the burns and the desolation of the landscape and the fusing. I read Hiroshima by John Hersey in 6th grade, which is an amazing account of the aftermath of the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII; this book brought me back to the feelings of horror that that book evoked in me, and then took it many, many steps further. It made me feel for the "wretches" who either didn't get to The Dome before the Detonations, or just weren't invited. They weren't the only ones I felt for though; I felt for those within The Dome as well. The author never gives you the impression that all is well there. You can feel the lies and betrayal pulsing under the seemingly utopian existence within. By first investing the reader in the characters, and then revealing the important plot points, Julianna manages to hook you. For me, what started out as a book I wasn't sure I was going to get through, became a book that I couldn't get out of my thoughts- I'm still thinking about it. The characters were so intertwined in ways that I didn't expect, and the plot points were woven with such attention to detail that I found myself picturing it fully, as if I was watching a movie. I can totally see why the film rights have been optioned by Fox.
I think the best news about this book is that now that the backstory has been covered, the series is only going to get more amazing from here. I think the greatest parts about Pure- the plot points and character twists- are only scratches on the surface. I think as the trilogy unfolds, we will get to see more about how far reaching the destruction is and we will meet some very important characters that are only briefly mentioned in Pure. I can't wait to get my hands on book #2, Fuse, later on this year, because I think it's going to be amazing.
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ¾
Grade Level Recommendation: This is a really tough call. For content, I would put it wherever you would put The Hunger Games. For me that is 5th grade. There is a comparable amount of violence and death, and I think the imagery is similarly graphic. This book is much more complex than The Hunger Games though. There is a good deal more scientific jargon and this book makes some historical assumptions that most kids younger than about 7th grade will miss. For these reasons, and not really for content, I would say that this book is most appropriate for kids 7th grade and up (ages 12+), but I wouldn't rule out letting a super-smart 5th or 6th grader read it.