Promise me that you'll read beyond the next sentence. Julianna Baggott's Pure is the first in a proposed dystopian trilogy geared to a young adult audience. Yes, you're sure you've burned out on dystopian YA trilogies. You want something uplifting, something adult, and no more series.
That's exactly why I held off reading Baggott's latest novel, published early this year. However, I have heard nothing but praise for her writing and understood that Pure promised to be different. I wasn't disappointed on either account.
The premise is simple and somewhat familiar: The world as we know it has been destroyed by the Detonations. Two types of people now exist: the Wretches, who were exposed to the explosions and their effects, and the Pures, who were safe inside the Dome and protected. That's where the familiar ends.
Pure stands out from the crowd thanks to Baggott's excellent world building. First are the sociopolitical factors. Baggott has thought out the hows, whys, and whos of the Detonations as well as the way circumstances inside and outside the Dome have changed and are different. In the new world, there are political factions, conspiracy theories, and people just trying to survive unnoticed. In addition, there's a whole new vocabulary along with new rules of etiquette and even small talk.
Second is the way people (beings?) have changed. Those who were outside the Dome during the Detonations were physically transformed, fusing with whatever they happened to be touching, and whether another organism or inert matter, these fusings cannot be undone. For example, a woman has a window frame embedded in her trunk, and a man has a small fan lodged in his neck. The unlucky were fused to rock, dirt, concrete, and even car engines. In addition all Wretches have scars from being burned, cut, or otherwise disfigured by the explosions.
In the Dome, the Pures are smooth skinned and untouched by physical deformity. But geneticists are busy working on enhancing the lucky survivors so they will be ready to repopulate the world once it's safe to be outside. Codings make the smart smarter and the strong stronger, but if they are so safe, why do some enhanced young men disappear never to be seen again?
And finally are the characters. Among the group we're rooting for are Pressia Belze, with her doll's head hand; Bradwell, with birds in his back; and El Capitan, with his brother fused to back, all of whom are living outside the Dome in what was once Baltimore. Inside the Dome are Partridge, son of one of the political leaders, and Lyda, daughter of a psychologist. Each has memories of before the Detonations, and each is living in very different circumstances.
How these five come together and what they do to survive make up the plot of Pure, which is told from their alternating viewpoints. The characters are complex, but more, they have distinct personalities, dreams, backgrounds, fears, and reactions. Their interactions with each other and with the world around them are consistent and contextually believable.
I wasn't surprised by many of the story lines in Pure, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of Bloggett's tightly plotted novel. In fact, in this first of the trilogy, she so carefully set up the world and so thoroughly introduced the major players that it was easy to become emotionally invested in the story.
Julianna Baggott's fresh take on dystopian America makes Pure a standout in the genre. It's no wonder it was an Indie Next pick for March 2012.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Hachette Audio; 14 hr, 9 min) read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins, and Casey Holloway. As I mentioned, Pure is told from alternating points of view, and for the audiobook, each is read by a different narrator. As in any multinarrator book, some readers are better than others; fortunately, the weak link here did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. The narrators were particularly good at conveying the excitement of the action scenes as well as the fear and uncertainties of the characters and their muted emotions in a world without much happiness.
This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted every Saturday by Julie at Booking Mama.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 2012 (print) (audiobook: Hachette audio, 2012)
ISBN-13: 9781455503063Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
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