It seems that the market has become saturated with young adult dystopian trilogies, making it difficult to believe there could something unique in the mix. But as I said in my review of Pure, Julianna Baggott has indeed taken a fresh and complex approach to the genre.
Even better, unlike many trilogies, the second installment, Fuse, was just as strong, increasing our connection to the protagonists and their world. Baggott introduced new situations and allowed her characters to grow, change, and even make life-altering mistakes.
The best news is that Baggott didn't let up in the final book, Burn. The characters still surprised me and tugged on my emotions. This bullet review assumes you've read the first two books, but includes no spoilers for Burn.
- Remind me of the premise: The world has been destroyed by Detonations, which left the Wretches (the masses) horribly disfigured and forced to survive in a polluted, almost lawless land. An elite group of people, the Pures, were sheltered inside the Dome, where they escaped disfigurement and now live in a controlled environment with many luxuries.
- Remind me of the characters: The books focus on five characters: three Wretches (Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan/Helmud) and two Pures (Partridge and Lyda). They have different backgrounds, different agendas, and different lots in life. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, providing us with a diversity of opinions and reactions.
- What happens in this book? As tensions between the Wretches and the Pures mount, everyone is forced to take a stand of some sort: fight, accept, hope, give up. The relationships among the main characters begin to change drastically, especially as our protagonists come to understand the consequences of their past actions and realize they must pay the price before they can face the future. Baggott doesn't necessarily allow her characters to take the easy or obvious path, not everyone is brave, smart, or strong.
- What I love: The characters, who are flawed, complex, and unpredictable. No one is all good or all bad or always smart or never fooled. Each person's dilemmas and personal issues are tangled and real and clearly have contributed to their individual personalities. Baggott is as much a master of character development as she is a creator of a unique and terrible world.
- Themes and issues: As is common in the dystopian genre, Baggott uses the Pure trilogy to address larger themes. Although questions about genetics, family, love, trust, and personhood come up throughout the trilogy, they are prevalent in Burn. All the books deal with issues of class differences, the environment, power, politics, and free will.
- Not really young adult: Although the principal characters are teens, the main themes are mature. Yes, there is some romance, but even in the heat of love, the characters don't lose track of who they are and what they ultimately want out of life. Baggott's world is no fairy tale realm, and it doesn't come with many happily ever after endings either.
- General thoughts: Even though Burn brings Julianna Baggott's complex, dark, and sometimes all-too-real trilogy to a satisfying end, I can't tell you how sorry I am that this series is over. The story has a well-thought-out conclusion, but the future is left open-ended so we can think about what might happen to the characters and the world. I would love to think that Baggott will revisit the Wretches and the Pures, but perhaps it's better to leave me wanting more.
- The audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition of Burn (Hachette Audio; 13 hr, 19 min) was read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, and Nicholas Tecosky. As I mentioned in my reviews of Pure and Fuse, the performances of some of the narrators are stronger than others. On the other hand, the overall production is well worth the listen; the narrators kept me fully engaged in the story and made it easy for me to remember the current point of view.
Source: Review (see review policy)
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