Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

This will be quick. Must go to bed. But not before I say that I LOVED THIS BOOK!

At ALA last summer, the ARC of Pure was put into my hands by Victoria Stapleton, trusted source at Little Brown, who happens to somehow read EVERYTHING. All she told me was, "The main character has a baby doll head for a hand." And really, do you need to hear more? I could stop talking right now and you would want to read this book, right? Well, it worked on me. Easiest pitch ever. Oh yeah, and it's a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story. By an author who has been known up till now for literary fiction and poetry. So, you know, she writes pretty. And does Julianna Baggott have a craaaaazy imagination to boot. My stars. 

Am I selling it? Okay, another anecdote. A few weeks ago Clementine was sick with a cough, the upshot of which was I found myself having to hold her upright to sleep for the first few hours of every evening to keep the coughing at bay. We were back in the glider that I don't think we'd been in since she was really little, and it was kind of ... nice. Nice to just rock and hold my little girl, and nice because it was the perfect excuse not to write for several evenings, but to READ instead. Ha! I ripped through Pure. Loved it. And when I was done I paged through and discarded another three books that didn't catch. Such was the spell of Pure.

Okay, okay. So what is it ABOUT? It is the story of Pressia (of the baby doll head fist) who is approaching 16 in her ravaged post-nuclear city (the age at which they come for you), and it is the story of Partridge, a teenager living in the safety of "the Dome," a self-sustaining bubble-city whose citizens were spared the devastation of the Detonations. Events set these two on a collision course down the gnarliest rabbit hole ever: suburban California (right?) seven years after the apocalypse. You can't even imagine the residents of this world, people fused to whatever (and *shudder* whoever) they were standing near when the blasts hit. And worse and weirder than that. Oh, Julianna Baggott. Ick. But I have a fairly average threshold for ick, I think, and it wasn't overdone. I was more wondering at the strange than throwing up in my mouth. So don't worry about that. Ven

I didn't know what to expect really, but maybe the baby doll head thing made me think it would be about a kind of Tank Girl bad-ass mutant chick, but the reality is so much more tender and beautifully realized. The fact is, Pressia was a little girl holding her baby doll when the blasts hit, and now the baby doll is forever part of her. And what really got me was the way she tries to hide it with a sock, it just broke my heart. Here she lives in this wild word of terribly damaged people and she is still ashamed of that hand. Really, this book runs the full emotional gamut of any work of literary fiction, but against a savage and wildly inventive post-apocalyptic backdrop that makes it Much. More. Fun.

And ooh, there's romance. Not what you expect, and pretty sweet and wonderful.

And a thriller of a plot, a Dickensian cast of characters, suspense, a twist, and more.

And tell me that the introduction of Ingership and his wife is not the mind-strummingest WTF you have ever read.

Are you beginning to see why I don't write book reviews? Incoherent adulation does not a review make. Here is what I can do. I can do what Victoria Stapleton did. 

I can say: 


Here's what the publisher says:

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.

Also, Julianna Baggott has a blog, which makes me want to be her friend. (Hi Julianna Baggott. *shy wave*) Don't tell her.

Let me know what you think! 


Lynsey Newton said...

LOL thanks Laini. I've had this book on the shelf since BEA last year and I really need to read it!

Kaja said...

I've read it already, it's one of those that touches you on the inside (or, more accurately, punches you in the gut). I loved the social criticism.

Jaime Morrow said...

"READ PURE. THE HEROINE HAS A BABY DOLL HEAD FOR A HAND." Can't stop laughing :-) Of all the ways to recommend a book, this is certainly a first! Intrigued? Definitely.

Amanda said...

Aaaaand... this just jumped to the top of my list. Thanks. =)

Stephsco said...

You did a nice job of selling this. Even though you had me at the baby head hand thing.

Also, it's reassuring to hear that you zipped few a through other less interesting books and didn't feel too bad about it. It took me a long time to realize I don't have to finish everything I read. Even if it's technically a good book, if it's not working for some reason there's no shame in moving on to something else. There's always a tall stack of something else.

anne said...

I am not generally a dystopia fan, but your "scattered" review intrigues me! Your enthusiasm is what sells, in your reviews, and in your other writings! (bet Julianna Baggott would want to be your friend ;) )

Laurence King said...

Thanks, Laini! It sounds reaaally intriguing. I just put it on reserve at the library.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

I loved this book too! The imagery just HAUNTED me!

Myrna Foster said...

I have the same problem with writing book reviews. I only bother with the ones I'm incoherent about. :o)

Thanks for the recommendation. I am intrigued.

Also, I was visiting a new neighbor, last month, and noticed Daughter of Smoke and Bone on her bookshelf. I asked her if she'd read any of your others. She said she hadn't, but she gushed about how much she loved Daughter and wanted to know if I knew when the next one came out. :) :) :)

____ said...

So funny that I come across this your review for PURE now as I just read (and finished) it last night. Like you, I tore through it with a speed of thousand wings! It is a gut-wrenching and extremely vivid read. The characters are well carved and molded; each feels like a real snippet of a post-apoctliptic survivor. I loved it and will suggest it to my friends who love The Hunger Games and the like. PURE is purely lovely!

Jenn said...

I saw the trailer for this book a couple months ago and was VERY intrigued by it. And I love the cover they ended up going with. Thanks for another recommendation, Laini! Glad to hear Clementine is doing better.

Melissa said...

I was in Kmart the other day after reading this post and came across the paperback of Pure (I'm in Australia, we mostly only get the paperback versions), beautiful either pure white or completely black covers.
Because money is tight at the moment I said (to myself) that I would put it on layby if I found something else to put on layby, hence the search began with my 4 yr old daughter in tow to find something else I could put on layby! Found a top with a cute cardigan, so marched straight to the book section picked up a white cover and walked straight to the layby counter (all the while ignoring the pleas from my daughter that she needed to go the toilet! - such a bad mum!). Can't wait to read it!

PS we totally made it to the toilet in time! (just incase you were concerned for her bladder!)

Heather said...

I picked this one up after reading your post and it is quite disturbing. And wonderful. I can't stop thinking about this book. Thanks for the recommendation!

Flo said...

Pure was amazing, thank you for the recommendation! JB's writing is beautiful like yours, and I appreciated the darkness of it all. I can't wait for DOBAS!

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