Pure by Julianna Baggott
Publisher:Hachette/Feb. 8th, 2012
Thanks to Hachette and Netgalley for providing a review copy
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.
Just when I thought dystopian might be getting a bit stale, I picked up Pure. Talk about a breath of fresh air! Well, the air in Pure is not all that fresh. In fact, outside of The Dome, it’s filled with ash and dust, the result of The Detonations a number of years earlier. There are a couple of theories (that correlate directly to inside/outside The Dome) as to how these detonations came about. Did someone else strike first? Did we? Or was it something far more sinister? Similar in tone to The Hunger Games (without the games, but with plenty of hunger), Pure presents a twisted, desolate landscape filled with creatures that defy the imagination. With this type of narrative, you expect the usual tropes; rogues out for blood, ragged children, broken families huddled together among the post-apocalyptic landscape, and dissidents with rebellion in mind. You get all of this with Pure, but the author has thrown a few extra things in the mix, which really made it stand out for me.
When The Detonations hit, the population got plenty of radiation, but with a little something…extra, thrown in. People were fused with whatever happened to be close during the meltdown, and nanobots kept them from dying of their wounds. So out of the ash came folks with parts of their cars, glass, metal, you name it, eternally entwined with them. People even fused with other people. Yep, you read that right. That’s not all. There are mutated creatures that rule the night (and sometimes the day), that will drag you down into the dust and devour you. Not a happy place. Pressia Belze is one of the luckier ones. She only has a doll head fused to her hand, and her grandfather has a fan blade in his neck that spins when he breathes. Things for Pressia and her grandfather are in sharp contrast to the sterile interior of The Dome, with its tightly controlled environment, designed for maximum containment, and maximum security. Partridge Willux is a Pure: unmarked, unscarred, protected. Yet, he’s been feeling that things are “off” for a while, that his father, one of those in charge of things inside the Dome, is up to no good and may have been lying to them all along. In this world, those would be considered “dangerous thoughts.” The denizens of the Dome, of course, have been spoon fed a certain rhetoric about those outside, and the “wretches” outside certainly have their own thoughts about the inhabitants of the Dome. Partridge wants to find his mother, who, in spite of what his father tells him, he suspects may be alive, and when he finally makes his escape from the Dome, he meets up with Pressia. Their futures are inexorably entwined, and during the search for Partridge’s mother, they will discover secrets that will cast light on their pasts, and have the power to change their futures. Unlikely alliances are made and loyalties are forged in their journey, and while Pure is certainly a postapocalyptic fantasy, it’s also very much about love, family, and the bonds that allow us to have hope beyond the point we think hope is possible. Lyrical, immediate, highly imaginative, and sometimes scathingly brutal, Pure is impossible to put down, and you won’t want to miss it!