Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Purity

by Jackson Pearce (Blog | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube)

Series: Standalone
Published: April 24th, 2012 by Little, Brown BFYR
Pages: 218 (Hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library
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A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

Jackson Pearce tackles controversial subjects in her contemporary debut, Purity. Death, sex, faith, love - Purity had it all. I picked it up soon after I read Sister's Red because I couldn't get enough of Pearce's lush and vivid prose. And while the writing definitely lived up to my expectations, I was extremely disappointed with how much I didn't enjoy this book. I heavily rely on strong main characters and compelling plots to stay interested in what I read. Purity, unfortunately, lacked both.

I thought Shelby was incredibly immature and naïve. For someone who tried relentlessly to live without restraint, these promises ruled Shelby's entire life. What irritated me was she didn't even understand what her mother actually meant by them. I'm not opposed to teenage sex, but losing your virginity shouldn't be taken lightly. This was biggest problem with Shelby's character - sex was just something she did because she didn't want to have more than a two minute conversation with her father to get out of the Ball. She didn't even try to talk about her reservations before she committed to this ill-thought-out plan.

Shelby and her father don't have a relationship, but it takes two people to have one. Shelby never tried or gave her dad a break - before or after her mom's death - and honestly I felt sorry for him. I was difficult when I Shelby’s age, so I can imagine just how lost Shelby’s dad was. By the end of the novel Shelby did mature a bit, but it wasn't enough to make me like her.

What I loved about Purity was Pearce's evocative and strong writing. The light dialogue and humor brightened up the atmosphere and kept me entertained despite my annoyance with Shelby. By lacing the novel with the right amount of humor as well as quirky side characters, Pearce made the subject matter much more approachable without taking away from the importance of the issues.

Furthermore, the way she approached religion was tasteful and realistically portrayed how a young girl would respond to losing her mother. It didn't feel like Pearce was pushing any kind of agenda onto her readers; instead, Shelby's struggle with her faith was unexpectedly relatable. I’m not religious, so while this may be why I didn’t mind Pearce’s take, I could easily empathize with Shelby. To me this says a lot about Pearce’s skill as a writer.

While I didn’t enjoy Purity as much as I hoped, I applaud Jackson Pearce for creating a novel that deals with such controversial subjects in an approachable way. Purity is definitely a unique story and a good start for Pearce’s contemporary work. However, if you are new to her books, I’d definitely pick up one of her fairytale retellings first because they are where she really shines.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Borrow from the library if you have time.

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