27 August 2012

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

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.

Buy Pure at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 2012 (print) (audiobook: Hachette audio, 2012)
ISBN-13: 9781455503063
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/27/12, 6:38 AM  

I'm glad I came across this post, because although I have a copy I had wrote it off in my mind. You made me want to give it try. Thanks so much - sounds fascinating.

Marg 8/27/12, 6:40 AM  

I really need to read this book. I have read a book under one of her other author names and really liked the voice although I didn't necessarily enjoy the story.

Amy 8/27/12, 6:43 AM  

yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one as well! :)

bermudaonion 8/27/12, 7:52 AM  

I've had this for a while and have put off reading it for many of the reasons you listed. I'm going to move it up my stacks.

Daryl 8/27/12, 8:51 AM  

I read a review of this in the NY Times BR a few weeks ago and downloaded this to my iPad Nook now I need to get to read it

I admit it I am a Dystopian junkie .. I am even looking forward to Revolution a new TV series from JJ Abrams (Lost) ... and its why I am hooked on Fringe ..

Zibilee 8/27/12, 9:46 AM  

I have this book, and lent it to a friend before reading it. He said it was excellent, and even recommended it to another friend who loved it.I clearly need to read this soon. It sounds bizarre but wonderful, and I do really love dystopians. Great review today. I really got your excitement for this book.

Sandy Nawrot 8/27/12, 12:05 PM  

This author was at SIBA last year and I had a chance to grab the book but didn't (probably because I heard "YA" and "trilogy" and decided I had one too many books already). You did an excellent job of convincing me why this book stands out, and I'm definitely going to see if I can get it on audio.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 8/27/12, 1:44 PM  

I read past those first two sentences! I have yet to read the CATCHING FIRE trilogy, so that must come first ...

Julie P. 8/27/12, 4:30 PM  

I so want to read these!!! Maybe audio is the way to go.

Carrie K. 8/27/12, 6:52 PM  

I loved this one, too - thanks for reminding me just how much! Looking forward to book two. I'm glad I didn't know ahead of time that it was a trilogy, or I probably would have skipped it.

Nise' 8/27/12, 9:47 PM  

I've had this one on my stacks for too long now! I love dystopia, don't know why I have not read it yet.

rhapsodyinbooks 8/27/12, 10:26 PM  

I just loved this. I love this author anyway. I really want to get a hold of her books she has written under her other names (N.E. Bode and also Bridget Ahser)

Serena 8/28/12, 8:23 AM  

This sounds like one I wouldn't mind reading at all.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick 8/28/12, 6:50 PM  

Yes! So glad you reviewed this! I have the audio version of it, but was biding my time to read it because the YA dystopian trilogies were tiring me out. I'll make sure to not shy away from starting this one next after the audio book I'm listening to now concludes.

Unknown 8/30/12, 3:12 PM  

So glad you liked this one, it's definitely one of the more interesting Dystopia's I've read recently.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 9/1/12, 1:11 PM  

I haven't read as much dystopian novels as I wanted to this year, so I will give this one a try. It certainly sounds unique.

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