Pure by Julianne Baggot was awesome! I’m really hitting a lucky streak with the books I’m reading this year. It’s an extremely well-written novel (with the minor exception of a few paragraphs here and there), and it is delightfully, though darkly, creative.
If you’re like me, you feel that authors are kind of piling on the dystopian bandwagon and riding it into the ground. This novel definitely refreshes the genre in a whole new way. The aftermath of a nuclear attack has left this tiny part of America a pile of rubble and ash. Despite this, there are still people carving a living from the harsh new landscape. The privileged few, the “pure,” live in the Dome, where they “code” people in an attempt to create a new race. Their goal is to emerge from the Dome and create a new Eden out of the ashes of the old Earth. The “wretches,” those caught in the Detonations and unfortunate enough to not have been allowed into the Dome, now live in fear of a makeshift militia, the OSR, who round up anyone turning 16 and force them to enlist. The wretches are also extremely interesting because the Detonations contained substances that caused them to fuse with anything that was around them. People who huddled together for protection were fused to one another. Women who shielded their children are now bound to them forever. People caught by shattered glass, debris, or shrapnel now have those things embedded in face, limbs, or torsos. Some were fused with animals. And some, known as Dusts, were fused to the ground or the sides of buildings, and now await unwitting passersby, whom they bite and consume.
It’s an extremely stark, bleak portrayal of a world seemingly without hope. But when Bradshaw, Partridge, and Pressia meet, they form a team that’s determined to get to the heart of the mystery of the Dome. These three characters are fantastically fun to read about. Bradshaw is gruff and trusts little, having known so much betrayal in his life. What seem like wild conspiracy theories at the beginning actually end up showing just how smart and informed he really is. Partridge is a Pure who has had enough of coding, and of his father, who is a powerful leader in the Dome. He escapes the Dome and sets out to find his mother, who he believes is alive, though he has always been told she is dead. And Pressia is just a girl, like you lady readers, or your sisters, or me. Though her hopes and insecurities are different from ours due to her situation, the fact that she has both makes her relatable and lovable. Her naivete is quickly overcome by her strength of character and her ability to adapt to any situation.
The villains are also delicious. With the exception of Partridge’s father, who is evil through and through and for its own sake, the rest of the baddies are only evil because they are trying to survive and it is the best way they know how. In some of them the reader can see the moral conflict happening in their inability to decide what to do with the trio. Others are so far gone that they feel they have no choice but to harm others in order to survive. It’s one of the greatest conflicts in the novel, overshadowing that of the wretches versus the Dome–how to overcome the evil within themselves when survival is on the line.
The only complaint I have is that there are a few paragraphs, scattered very few and far apart, that don’t seem to mesh with the rest of the novel. If you read it, I think you’ll also be able to pick them out. While most of the book is very dark and somber, well-written and constant, there are parts when the author makes an attempt to lighten the tone a bit. Here her writing gets sloppy, and the paragraphs or pages feel forced and incongruous to the rest of the book. It in no way ruins the book, but it’s a little distracting when it happens.
I think this is a fantastic dystopian novel that deserves a lot of attention. I’ll definitely be picking up the second one (it’s not out yet, but I work at a book store and I know the reader is lurking somewhere), hopefully soon. You should read this one, guys and gals!