“Always walk in the light. Follow your soul. May it have wings.”

Pure by Julianna Baggott



Set in a future where a cataclysmic atomic event known as the Detonations turned the world into a nightmarish landscape inhabited by mutated survivors – many fused to inanimate objects, animals, or other people – the wretches, as they are called, live a hellish existence while the Pures live protected inside the Dome, “a glittering fortress” enhanced by deadly weapons and wildly advanced technologies.



Ripkard Crick Willux (aka Partridge) is a 17-year old Pure who has lived his entire life within the safety of the Dome. He has been fed, educated, and genetically modified, but he feels trapped within the strict social confines of the Dome. He hates his father, one of the Dome’s administrative leaders, and – through a series of fateful discoveries – believes that his beloved mother is still alive somewhere in the wastelands outside of the Dome. He makes it his mission to somehow escape the supposed paradise…




“Then the sheep emerge from the trees, hobbling along on dainty, mangled hooves… their tongues are quick, almost sharp looking, some shining like razors. Their fur is beaded with water, matted in hunks. Their eyes rove out of sync, and their horns – sometimes too many horns to count, sometimes a row of horns, a spiked ridge down the beast’s back – are grotesque…”


“His foot is gone. One of his pant legs is cuffed. And instead of a knee, there’s the neck bone of a dog, its furred cranium, its bulged eyes, jaw, teeth. Is the man’s leg part of the dog’s vertebrae?”


“Her pale skin has almost completely grown over the pearls around her neck. They look like a strand of perfectly shaped tumors...”


And those are nowhere near the worst of what Pressia and Partridge witness – I’ll let you discover the rest yourself!


Undoubtedly one of the darkest post-apocalyptic novels for young adults I’ve ever read, Baggott’s horrific vision of the future contains some unlikely enlightenment. Is what a person looks like on the outside truly important? Is Pressia lessened in some way because of her mutation? I loved the sequence where Bradwell, a conspiracy theorist who risks his life to help Pressia, tells her that her scars are beautiful. Whether we chose to admit it or not, we all have scars of some sort – and it’s those scars that make us who we are.


"Bradwell sits up and touches the scar with his fingertip. He looks at her as if his eyes are taking in her entire face, her eyes, her cheeks, her lips. Normally, she’d look away, but she can’t. 'The scar is beautiful,' he says…”


Baggott is an award-winning poet – and it shows in this novel. Bleak, terrible, and darkly lyrical, I highly recommend Pure to anyone who enjoys visionary apocalyptic fiction. Although the major characters are teenagers and the book is being marketed as a young adult novel, its impact will affect anyone who reads it regardless of age – just a harrowing, haunting, and unforgettable read. 


“…and she imagines how the soot will cover the earth again with a new dusting, black snow, a blessing of ash.”




Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 


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by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎04-20-2012 08:50 PM
by on ‎04-20-2012 09:29 PM

Paul, I read this book. I did not care for it, and conveyed it in my book review.  


The thought of young adults reading this book makes my skin scrawl.  I saw nothing in this book that registered "poetic" in my mind.  The characters' inner being, self, was overshadowed by their incomprehensible, ridiculous exteriors.  


Baggot can put a sentence together, but what was included in those sentences was monstrously silly, or melodramatically outrageous, and violently thwarting. Have a few "ly's" why don't I?


Having a lawnmower, or your brother, or shards of glass and metal stuck on you, from head to foot, ..Boy, just the thought of having to wipe my butt with mirror shards stuck in my hands....yikes!  Like I said, the visuals were just too unreasonable, and over the top for me, and not enough inner thoughts to provoke my liking this story. 

by Moderator paulgoatallen ‎04-21-2012 11:45 AM - edited ‎04-21-2012 11:58 AM


Looks like we had very different reading experiences – and thank you, as always, for your thoughts!


But the "unreasonable" visuals as you described them were incredibly powerful for me – and very much believable in the structure of the story. Having read books on the use of atomic bombs and its nightmare-inducing fallout – like a title Baggott referenced in the acknowledgments, Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino – made me understand with crystal clarity the unimaginable results of atomic warfare.


Here's another image that has never left me, from legendary beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was involved in WWII:


"I saw a giant field of scorched mulch. It sprawled out to the horizon, 3 square miles looking like someone had worked over it like a huge blowtorch. A few sticks from buildings jutted up like black arms. I found a teacup that seemed like it had human flesh fused into it, just melted into the porcelain. In that instant, I became a total pacifist."


So, yes, in my mind, this vision of the future that Baggott has created isn't about ridiculous exteriors, it's about the complete insanity of nuclear war and the hell it creates for the unlucky survivors...


A powerful read for me – can't wait for the sequel, which I believe will be entitled Fuse...

by on ‎04-21-2012 12:25 PM


Yes I did see the truths to what Baggott was trying to tell us, and pondered them as I read (and as you've pointed out), but as a young adult read, I honestly don't believe that most will get past all the overly done, surface excitement.  Kids see things differently these days, then when I did, while growing up reading.


A compelling read, yes, keeping me moving throughout the book, but, as I'm such a visual reader, it tired me to see this world taken into such violent absurdities, which seemed to be written for absurdity sake.


What you and I see, as adults, may not be what young minds will perceive while reading this book.  Maybe we should take a pole?  :smileyhappy:


Thanks, Paul...you're my man!

Old lady, Kathy

by on ‎04-26-2012 09:28 AM

This book has my name written all over it. I do tend to like this type of book. Thanks Paul for the review. I have added it to my wish list. I appreciate that you help us all sort through all the books that are coming out.

by on ‎04-26-2012 09:30 AM

Kathy, I appreciate that you read all kinds of books not just in your favorite genre. I do tend to stick to things I like. And if I don't like them, I don't always go back to figure out what it was that bugged me or didn't seem real to me, etc.

by on ‎05-09-2012 12:59 PM

Pen, I thought about what you said, so I wrote something on my blog about Reading and Writing.  http://kathys-aliceinwonderland.blogspot.com/


Paul always gets me interested (by what he writes) in something 'different' - out of my comfort zone is more like it.  He's so darn excited about what he's read, it makes me excited to try it.  I always try to go in with an open mind, because every once in a while I will strike gold.  


The multi-layers of story telling has to be there, for me at least, and one layer shouldn't overshadow the other, and if it does, it distracts me from the other layers - if that makes sense.


I visualize when I read, and if one visual is stronger than all the rest, as with this novel, Pure (depicting the odd physicalness of these characters), it doesn't sit well with me.  The POVs must make some sense.  Medically speaking, these characters didn't make sense, in that they were still living with these weird things stuck to them.  This is where the ridiculous overshadowed the logical.  The landscape didn't make sense - and also the way the author 'picked and chose' the technologies in the story to fit her idea of a setting.


In the end, I ended up seeing something like an abstract painting.  Visualize a Picasso abstract, or maybe a surrealist painting.  It may make sense to the artist (writer), but not always to the one on the outside looking in.





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