Julianna Baggott – Pure

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day, emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now, we watch from afar.

Pressia Belze has lived outside of the Dome ever since the detonations. Struggling for survival she dreams of life inside the safety of the Dome with the ‘Pure’.

Partridge, himself a Pure, knows that life inside the Dome, under the strict control of the leaders’ regime, isn’t as perfect as others think.

Bound by a history that neither can clearly remember, Pressia and Partridge are destined to forge a new world.

I’m starting my year of well in the resolutions department, by having my first review be a YA one! And it is a great book to start off with. Pure is a fabulous story. It is a look at nuclear fall-out and what could happen to a society and its people when they get caught in it and survive. The Fusings that follow – where people caught out in the blast have whatever they had near them fused to their bodies, ranging from wires, tools and toys to entire people – and other results are scary, but also imaginable. And they raise some interesting questions. What would it be like to be forever chained to your beloved dog, meaning you’ll die when it dies? How do you deal with an arm or a leg that’s been replaced with garden scissors or a bike wheel? Now these are combinations I just made up, but there are stranger ones in the book. It does show a resilience to humanity that I hope we’d truly possess if push came to shove.

Not everyone was caught out in the blast though, as preparations for just such an occurrence were being made in the form of the Dome. A haven, protected from the outside atmosphere and radiation, where a chosen few were allowed to take refuge to wait out the destruction and to be able to swoop back in and rescue the rest of mankind once the dust settled. Of course, the Dome is anything but a haven. Its society is oppressive, food is ingested in the form of nutrition pills and the population is enhanced through Coding—physical alterations which give them enhanced speed, strength and intelligence among others. I liked the way the Dome goes from a heaven-like dream to an evil reality. It makes it easier to like Partridge; the Pure – which is what Dome dwellers are called by those on the outside – who flees the Dome to find his mother and to see what life is like on the outside.

The characters in this book are very strong. Pressia is a strong voice, who does what she must to survive. She tries to evade capture by OSR – the resistance army everyone has to join once they turn sixteen – but once caught she tries to survive in their midst. But nothing is as it seems. The same goes for Partridge, he is an outsider due to his parentage and living in the Dome turns out to be far worse than Pressia imagines it. I liked Partridge’s rebellion and critical thinking, though he was incredibly naive. The link between Pressia and Partridge is a little too convenient, but I didn’t mind that, because they made for a great combination to discover this world. Bradwell, the true rebel of the book, isn’t Pressia’s insta-love but it did go rather quickly, however, I loved their story anyway, because Pressia’s growing realisation of her feelings is so very well done. El Capitan is fantastic; he is the character that gives us the clearest view of what it is like to be fused. Yes, both Pressia and Bradwell have fusings too, but neither seems to have as much trouble with them as El Capitan does. I love the way he deals with his fused brother and comes to realise they are one and the same.

The secret star of the novel to me, however, was Lyda. She gets drawn in accidentally and doesn’t let it break her spirit, even if it looks like her future is all but lost. She is put through the wringer, locked into a mental institution and then thrown out of the Dome as bait, all because she went to the dance with Partridge. Her treatment is grossly unfair, but she doesn’t let it take away her oomph, she’s feisty and never stops thinking for herself. Hopefully we’ll see more of her in the next book.

One last aspect that has to be mentioned is the world building, not just the current world of the Dome and the outside, but also the glimpses we get of the Before. It is both intricate and small-scale. The Dome, Pressia’s town and its surrounding land is well-built, but what happened to the rest of the world? The answer to that question remains rather nebulous and I hope we’ll find out more on that in the future. The Before is fascinating. It seemed a rather bleak future – as bleak as the now of the book – with the Return to Civility and the way feminism was ground down and turned back, with girls and women only valuable (and allowed to breed) when they are soft-spoken, obedient and subservient. Can we say nightmare? But how did we get there? What happened? There are many questions as yet unanswered and I hope that we will get answers at some point.

Per the author’s acknowledgement, the book owes a lot to the experiences of the people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki, horrors which are often left underexposed when discussing World War Two. And has made me wonder about that side of the war and what happened to the people there, something I had never thought about before. So kudos to Ms Baggott for that. I hope the book will have a similar effect on teens reading it, because there might be lessons learned from such reflection.

Pure is a cracker of a read, one I really enjoyed. It united a very interesting premise with great, vivid writing. It might have prompted as many – if not more – questions as it answered, it may end on a new mystery, but it made me think. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Pure will be published by Headline on February 2. Be sure to check it out for an interesting dystopian read and a new series to get hooked on!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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  • Ria

    I got a copy of this one through NetGalley, and even though I have a couple of books to read before I get around to this one, I'm practically counting down the days because it seems so good and interesting! Great review!

  • A solid review Mieneke. I'll look forward to reading others as this echoed a lot of my own thoughts about the book.

    So far 2012 is looking like its going to be a very good year.

  • Thanks you guys!

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  • Also enjoyed this YA dystopian, with all its creepy fusings! Wanted to have more story inside the dome though, and thought Partridge left too early. And *that* scene with the mother and babies! Reading this has reminded me that I need to read the other two! Have you read Only Ever Yours by Louise O’ Neill? Fab and brutal feminist satire set in a world where girls are bred to be Companions to men…