Pure By Julianna Baggott

I had begun to wonder if the world needed another dystopian fantasy in which the world was crumbling and teenagers were the heroes. And then I read Pure by Julianna Baggot, whose world was not just a dystopian landscape full of humans that had become the detritus of civilisation, but was one filled with hope and passion, rather than despair.

What makes Pure stand up above other novels on the market, is the premise of the detonations that have destroyed the planet. Cowering from the explosions, the “pure” humans retreated to a manmade dome for salvation leaving the majority of the populace outside fighting with the decline of what makes us human. The “wretches” outside have become deformed by the blast and it isn’t until quite a way through the book that we find out why.

The deformities range from the mild to the utterly bizarre, but each has the same thing in common in that every person is now fused with materials that they were using or holding at the time of the blast. For example two of the three main protagonists, Pressia and Bradwell, suffer with their own disfigurements. Pressia has a doll’s head where one of her hands would be and Bradwell has a flock of birds lodged in his back. These deformities accompany faces littered with broken glass and chunks of metal.

The blasts have caused such destruction and abominations that the land outside of the dome actually inspires fear and unease. There are humans even fused with the ground itself who live beneath the ashes of the buildings and people who once lived happily. Julianna Baggot paints a horrible picture and does so with achingly wonderful prose. It is here that her work as a poet truly comes to the fore as she delivers sentences that flow with beauty and energy.

But what of the third protagonist? Partridge is a pure who has escaped the dome – something nobody inside thought possible. It is Partridges Father who runs the dome and as suspicions behind his intentions arise, the suspense does so, too. When Partridge first escapes it is Pressia whom he runs into in the desolate streets. Partridge is in search of his Mother, despite being told that she died on the day of the detonations, he believes differently and needs the help of Pressia to achieve his goal.

Therein lays the plot and around it many small stories begin to emerge, bringing with them a whole host of wonderful characters. We watch as Pressia runs from the OSR when she turns 16 and is hiding so as not to be recruited by the “army” that traipses the wastelands. We hide with the cast as they hide from death marches in which the OSR kill random wretches. But we also view Lyda, a girl inside the dome who is accused of helping Partridge escape as she is bullied by dome officials. Then there’s El Capitan, but to be honest this character should be left as a surprise for all to discover.

It’s these side plots that strengthen the novel as a whole, but also elevate the cast so that each member is equally important. You slowly begin to love these fragile people as each page falls, for it’s that fragility that we all fear. The author grabs the foreboding and despair that we all keep buried in our minds and lays them out in a barren world so that there is little else to linger in our imaginations.

Baggott captures a battle of good Vs evil wonderfully and we all love this traditional archetype, it’s almost a David and Goliath narrative. The foreboding dome strikes quite the image, particularly shown in the opening of the novel with a message deliver unto the wretches.

“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, benevolently.”

It’s that message that sets the tone and the pace becomes ever more suspenseful and thrilling. Pure is the first part of a proposed trilogy and it sets the tone of what’s to come incredibly well. The plot lends itself to a drawn out, tense story and I for one am pleased to be along for the ride. There is always an uncertainty as you read Pure, you can tell that Baggott loves her creations, but loves her story enough to tease their fates.

This is a very accomplished young adult novel that falls on the side of adult predominately. Baggott never shies away from the brutality that humanity can create and she never once patronises her audience.

I can’t wait to see what comes next in Fuse, the second part of the trilogy. I’m also intrigued to see what Hollywood does with it now the rights have been bought. Above all I look forward to more of Julianna’s writing; she has a skill for storytelling and creating believable characters. Pure is an enchantingly dark and nightmarish story that captivates from opening page to its final mysterious sentence. It is as captivating as it is fearsome – truly a dystopian tale of tour de force proportions.

Kindly sent by the publisher.

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