(Note: This recommendation was first published in September of 2013. You can see the original version here.)
Let me start this off with a disclaimer: It’s been a few years since I last read Pure, by Julianna Baggott. It’s a testament to the book, however, that I still remember it well enough to write this updated recommendation.
There’s a part of me that’s still a bit surprised by how much I loved this novel. See, Pure falls into the realm of Science Fiction, which is a genre I generally don’t enjoy. Yet it’s a novel I very highly recommend.
After the apocalypse, the world is split into two societies. Living safely inside the dome are those few lucky people who survived unmarked and unharmed. Outside of the dome are the rest–those who didn’t make it to safety and who, after the explosions, found themselves fused, damaged, and weak. Partridge is a Pure, but he’s determined to escape the dome in an effort to find his mother. Pressia has lived her entire life outside of the dome, but now finds herself on the run from the people she grew up with. When the two meet, their only chance at survival may be learning to trust each other.
There are a lot of things I love about Pure–about the series as a whole, really. But there’s one thing I want to focus on today: Baggott’s world-building.
The world in this novel, you guys… yes, it’s a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s not one set far into the future. The main characters, who are in their late teens, can still remember the events that led to the apocalypse. They remember life before. They know what a better life was like. That, somehow, makes their burdens heavier.
And I’m not necessarily talking about emotional and mental burdens, though those certainly play a role. No, when Pure’s apocalypse happened, anyone who didn’t make it into the dome was fused with something or someone else. This caused minimal impact for some, but it’s a pretty major setback for others. I enjoyed seeing how many different possibilities Baggott came up with, how the characters reacted or adapted to them, and how each plays a distinct role in the book.
We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.
Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.