Pure by Julianna Baggott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4.5 stars for this one. My usual criteria for rating a book five stars is that it captured me so deeply that I'd read it again. I don't come across those reads very often but Pure is almost one of those.The writing was evocative & atmospheric and made it one of the most well done dystopian novels I've read. It also was one of the best modern YA novels I've ever read. Everywhere there are hallmarks of taking flight to freedom. A boy named nicknamed Partridge. Pressia's mechanical pet Freedle. Lyda's wire bird. The birds forever fused to Bradwell's back. Partridge's mother's swan pendant & card with their messages. The theme isn't heavy handed & just flows quietly along in the story as the characters from inside & outside the Dome struggle with the idea.
Also this is not a world populated by perfect pretty main characters or those who'll be fixed by some wave of the hand to become aesthetically palatable. Radiation & being forever fused to organic & non-organic things sort of negates that whole thing & I really liked that. When I came across this book, I read that Pressia (the female main character) had a doll head fused to her hand & knew that I needed to read this. It doesn't take long into the story to realize that as fusings go, Pressia & her grandfather are pretty lucky. I have to admit that I was impressed by the description of the Dusts, Beasts & Groupies, the Mothers & Special Forces. And as those in control inside the Dome, their worldview is nastily warped with the Return to Civility. The road taken to achieve it is flat out barbaric & it's not any more able to be overlooked than the physical damage those outside the Dome have. As I read, I could see the beauty of the survivors on the outside. I'm still looking for the same in those in control of the Dome dwellers. This is a place that I was fascinated to read about but I don't know that I'd want to see this as a movie. This is a world that's difficult to look at. The beauty of a scar as a symbol of survival is a powerful thing but watching people fused with window frames, glass shards, cell phones, earbuds, other people, appliances, trees and all manner of other things, just works better for me on a page.
Anyway, the general thrust of the story is Pressia & her need to escape OSR as she's turned sixteen & Partridge (Ripkard?) bailing the Dome to go on a search for the mother he believes is alive outside. They meet up, things go not entirely as expected & the quest to go up against the establishments will ensue & play out over the course of a few books so no tied off story here. There are explanations given about what led up to all this (a merging of politics, religion & social beliefs) & I was impressed that so much detail was given. In the end, it left me wanting to know so much more about Partridge's parents & everything else leading up to the Detonations. Willux is of course, flawed but I couldn't also help but hold annoyance with Aribelle for practically writing off Sedge & just focusing on Partridge for code disruption. I didn't find the reason she did it wholly satisfying but I know it's supposed to absolve her of a bit of culpability. I wasn't expecting any huge resolution & very much tempered my expectation that I would find out what the hell happened that led to the day of the Detonations. What happened to the existing government? The rest of the globe? Hopefully those will be covered a bit in the rest of the series.
I very much liked the interaction of Bradwell & Partridge. They had good banter & bicker moments. At times, I was more interested in their part of the journey than I was in Pressia's (El Capitan did make for an engaging addition to the story though). Lyda turned out not to be a one off character but her part of the story, while interesting, was very slow going. To be fair, she has fewer entries than the others. Sedge's fate was so underscored in the beginning that I figured he had taken a different path. It was only a matter of time until that was revealed. I worked out the twist about Pressia as well, but I didn't feel it was a flaw in the narrative.
All in all, I'm glad that I read this book. It wasn't a very quick read for me as the images tended to stick in my mind & I wanted breaks along the way. I need to get the next installment from the library soon because I need to know what's next.
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