Pure by Julianna Baggott
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.
If you’ve read a lot of my reviews you probably know by now I’m quite the fan of dystopian fiction. However, when I first started hearing about Pure by Julianna Baggott online, I wasn’t exactly dying to read it. I suppose that as much as I love dystopian fiction, there is a little too much of it, certainly in the YA market today, and half of them never live up to the hype. But when a few fellow booksellers started telling me about just how good Pure really is, I decided to give in and give it a go for myself, and I have to say I certainly have no regrets!
Pure tells the story of Pressia and Partridge. Pressia is a ‘wretch’ who now lives outside the Dome since the Detonations which virtually destroyed Earth as we know it. The wretches are horribly disfigured after fusing with any items they may have been near or holding at the time of the Detonations. Pressie has a doll’s head for a fist. Partridge, however, is one of the Pure. He was lucky enough to be inside the Dome at the time of the Detonations, thanks to his father who is running the place. Although Partridge may be whole on the outside, he is very much disfigured on the inside due to the deaths of his mother and brother and a rather strained relationship with his father. Partridge becomes convinced that his mother is still alive somewhere outside the Dome, and a plan soon starts to take shape that will lead him outside into a world he’s only ever heard very little about. Needless to say, Pressia and Partridge’s lives come together and lead them both on a journey they never thought possible.
What I love most about Pure is undoubtedly the world that Baggott has created. It’s unique, original and above all exciting. It may take you a while to get your head around the fact that these people have odd disfigurements, certainly when I learned of Pressia’s doll head for a fist, I found it quite hard to imagine and not very believable. However, I think it was once I got to Pressia’s new-found friend Bradwell, the boy with live birds in his back, that I started to open up to these disfigurements and go with it. I started to imagine what a great film it would make, visually, if done right, and that’s something I don’t often say about books I enjoy! There’s a lot of talk of nano-technology as the reason for these fusions and disfigurements, and I’m not going to pretend like I really understand why it happened, but I will say that it in the end I thought it was a very fresh, original idea that Baggott has brought to life.
The second thing I loved about Pure has to be the characters. The first thing I realised was that this wasn’t just a typical YA story where you have two main characters who go on some kind of journey together and obviously fall in love. Pure immediately felt different, and I was extremely grateful for it. Pressia and Partridge both have their own love interests which gives the story a chance to have more well-developed, brilliant characters. I particularly loved Bradwell, the boy with birds in his back, and I really enjoyed watching the relationship between him and Pressia grow. The other character who I perhaps enjoyed the most, was El Capitan, a soldier who thought he was working against the Dome, but soon discovers otherwise. He is also fused with his brother, whose head sits upon his shoulder. It’s a little disturbing at first, and although El Capitan is often quite horrible to his brother, you do get a sense that he is almost thankful to have his brother with him, and that the two do share quite a close bond.
The world Baggott has created is certainly an intriguing concept, and one I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in. Within the Dome, life feels very regimented. They are giving coding and conditioning to heighten their abilities, and to shape them into stronger, better human beings. They know that a time will come when they must take back the world they lost. Outside the Dome, it is a very different story. Food and shelter are scarce, and the disfigurements of these people make life rather uncomfortable. The streets are threatened by Dusts, those fused with the earth and waiting under the soil to grab your ankle as you walk by and pull you down with them. There is very little joy in this world, and what little they have is often from each other, and a shared sense of hope that flickers faintly amongst them. There are many conspiracy theories as to why the Detonations happened and who was behind them, but I feel these are answers we will not get until later on in the trilogy. Pressia and Partridge are never quite sure who is working for who, and who they can trust, and you as a reader are left guessing the same.
Baggott is a gifted writer, and one that has managed to create a world I haven’t been this excited about in a long time. There is no doubt she has a wonderful imagination and a talent for creating intriguing, heartfelt characters. But if I had one gripe about this novel, it would be that to me it’s not clearly defined as YA or adult fiction. And yes, maybe it doesn’t need to be, there are after all many books that cross-over into both age-groups, but I can’t help but feel that if you are a writer, you should write with a specific target audience in mind, and I’m not entirely sure who this audience was for Baggott. Any story that has teenage protagonists often feels like YA fiction, and that is the case with Pure, but I can’t help but feel that a lot of the writing and scientific explanations is very mature and doesn’t quite have that easy flow as say The Hunger Games do, for example. This certainly isn’t a criticism, myself not being a big lover of The Hunger Games anyway, as I feel Baggott is arguably the better writer. But it seems that the intended audience for Pure has become a little confused. In the UK, Pure has been released as an adult novel, and I know this took many booksellers by surprise. I can see why this has happened, but I also feel that those adults who don’t normally read young adult fiction, may find Pure not quite ‘adult’ enough for them, and the reverse with young adult readers. However, if you’re like me, an adult who does read YA, then I’m sure you will love Pure as much as I do. It’s certainly an interesting concept to ponder though, as I notice this happening more and more – particularly with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and James Treadwell’s Advent.
If you like dystopian fiction or you fancy something a little more original, then you should definitely pick up a copy of Pure. I’m extremely excited to see what is going to happen next in this series, and I can only apologise to Baggott for having doubted her in the first place, for she has certainly proved me wrong.
Pure is out now, published by Headline. A big thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy through NetGalley.