Review: Pure (Pure #1) by Julianna Baggott

Title:  Pure
Author:  Julianna Baggott
Series:  Pure #1
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group
Publication Date:  February 8, 2012
Pages:  431
Format/Source:  Hardback/Purchased
Age Group/Genre:  Adult, Young Adult/Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

   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. (From Goodreads)

A Rocky Start…

I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started reading.  I had been wanting to read this book for a long time – I put it on my Goodreads To-Read list in May of last year!  So I was super excited and went out and bought it on the release date.  I didn’t start reading it right away, since I was in the middle of another book, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to read as much as I would have liked for the past week or so, so it took me a while to finish it.  

But my first reaction, after reading only the first few pages, was that this was a twisted, gruesome book.  I realized that although I really enjoy the post-apocalyptic genre, and I’ve seen plenty of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies, I hadn’t really read too many books that were actually set in the time just after an apocalypse.  Sure, I’d read dystopians where an apocalypse had happened way in the past, but I’ve only read a couple of books that deal with the immediate after-effects of an apocalypse.  (I’ve used the word apocalypse way too much now, and I apologize.)  So although this one is really dark and gritty, and I feel the need to warn readers of this, I really can’t compare it to many other books that have a similar setting.

A Heavy Read…

That said, I still want to warn people who might want to pick up Pure:  it’s dark.  It’s gory.  There aren’t really any happy warm fuzzies in any part of the book, except during the (very short) romantic bits.  I hate gore.  I can’t stand it in movies or on television and I definitely don’t like it in my books. And this is one book that I don’t know if I’d want to see adapted in movie form, simply because of the disturbing images.  But even though there are grotesque images in this book (Pressia, one of the main characters, has a doll’s head fused to her hand, and there are other characters that are actually two or more people fused together, among other things), there was only one instance where I thought to myself, “Whoa, this is getting pretty gory.” 

But there’s death.  There’s suffering.  There are deformed children.  One part that really got to me was this one scene where there are all these mothers whose children are now fused together with them, and the children can no longer grow.  They are just stuck to their mothers for the rest of their lives, forever the age that they were when the Detonations occured.  It’s a harsh image for me because I am a mother myself, and I know that I would end up like that, because if I was there when the Detonations hit, I would have held my son as close to me as I possibly could.

Kinda Iffy…

I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief at first.  How could all these people be fused together with the earth, with inanimate objects, with each other?  Luckily there is a type of explanation to this, and I was able to get over it and accept that something like this could happen.

And another thing – for those of you that aren’t too fond of multiple narrators, be warned.  There are four different points of view in this novel.  I myself don’t have problems with two narrators, and three wasn’t too bad, but when it came to the fourth point of view, I was wondering if every major character was going to get their own chapters.  However, I did end up feeling like all of these points of view were justified, and were needed to allow the reader to view these characters as individuals, and to see their humanity and their own personal struggles.  Without their own chapters, readers would simply see them through the eyes of the other characters, and wouldn’t see the complexity behind each character.

Beauty in Ugliness…

One of my favorite quotes was from early on in the book in one of Pressia’s chapters:

“Swirling ash – it’s not all bad.  In fact, it can be beautiful, the lit swirl.  She doesn’t want to see beauty in it, but she does.  She finds little moments of beauty everywhere – even in ugliness.  The heaviness of the clouds draping across the sky, sometimes edged dark blue.  There’s still dew that rises from the ground and beads up on pieces of blackened glass.”

This comes up fairly often in the book – the beauty that Pressia still can see even though the world has been torn apart.  It’s a wonderful image.

Although dirty and poignant, this book is still laced with hope.  And Julianna Baggott has created such an intimate story that makes you ache for the characters and their situation, and you yearn for an outcome that, even if it’s not all butterflies and rainbows, is somewhat happy, somewhat hopeful, somewhat comforting.  It’s not a story just about their deformities, their scars, and their suffering, but it’s an extremely complex story that delves into the issues of the corruption of power, the ethics of technology, and the will to survive.

My rating for Pure by Julianna Baggott:

Four large stars.  Maybe 4 1/2.  This was a gripping tale of survival, and although it took me a while to get into the story, I can’t wait to see what happens in the rest of the trilogy.

Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Hachette Book Group
Disclaimer:  I purchased this book myself.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.


  1. Nicole

    February 22, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Great review! I've also been waiting on this book for a while and I have read some negative reviews about it, but it's good that you enjoyed it :D

  2. Briana

    February 22, 2012 at 7:06 am

    This looks quite interesting! But also really gross. I'm probably going to pass because I'm shuddering already! Very informative review.

  3. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

    February 22, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Man, my reply button is STILL messed up! Argh! I'll have to see if my husband can check on that.

    Anyway, I'll reply to both Nicole and Briana.

    Nicole – It's a crazy book, so I can see why others would dislike it. It's dark throughout, but if you're okay with that, you should check it out! I'm glad I stuck with it! Thanks for stopping by!

    Briana – Yes, it does have some gross parts. And although it is really dark overall, there really was only one part that made me kind of go "Yuck!" I think it could have been a lot worse. But I totally understand if you want to pass on this one. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Sophie

    February 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I started reading this, but… It's too dystopian for me, I think D: It was pretty interesting getting to know how the world (the dome, and the outside) worked, but with all the deformations and suffering an stuff… Maybe someday I'll pick it up again, though :)

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 23, 2012 at 3:45 am

      Yeah, it's a pretty crazy read. I totally understand having to set it down. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Jessie Marie

    February 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    This is probably the most positive negative review I've read for this one! Or any book for that matter, haha. I received Pure through NetGalley several weeks ago and have debated back and forth about whether I want to read it. Unfortunately, I think I let the negative reviews sway me. =/

    However, after reading this, I think I'll more seriously consider it. I'm a little on the strange side – creepy and gory are really interesting to me. Why? Probably cause I like to see how twisted an author's brain can be and if they use it appropriately.

    Anyway, I suppose I'll have to get to this one. I loved your review, Andrea. Really informative and interesting. : )

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 23, 2012 at 3:49 am

      Hahahaha! It is a positive negative review, isn't it? I liked the book but I just had to warn others about the dark aspects.

      But if you like that creepy stuff you should definitely check it out. I hate gore but this really wasn't too much for me. I mean, I think I'd get really grossed out if it was a movie, but it wasn't too bad as a book. And the overall story is really cool and complex, so that made up for it, too.

      I think you'd like it and I can't wait to see what you think of it! Thanks so much for stopping by and for leaving such thoughtful comments! ;)

  6. Debz

    February 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I started reading this, then quickly decided that I couldn't handle that kind of dark, gory stuff. It was really good, I'm just a wimp =P
    Glad you liked it!


    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 23, 2012 at 3:51 am

      I totally understand. It is pretty dark. I'm normally a big wimp, too, but I managed to get through this one! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog)

    February 23, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for honest review. I've seen this one around, and I can do dark.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 23, 2012 at 3:52 am

      No problem! You should definitely check it out if you can do dark! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Bittner

    February 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I liked your review but I don't think this book is going to be for me. I'm actually kind of running out of steam when it comes to dystopias so I probably wont be reading this one. I'm glad you liked it though, it sounds really creepy!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      I'd say this book is more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, but the rest of the series will most likely be heavy on the dystopia stuff. And this book definitely isn't for everyone – I'm surprised I got through it myself!

  9. Andrea @ Cozy Up

    February 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this one Andrea! It definitely was a heavy read and would for sure be scary to see put in a movie because of the gore. I was really surprised by a lot of it. I had a bit of a hard time in the beginning wrapping my head around the fused people as well but understood after some time. I'm so excited to see what happens next! Great review!!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Yeah, the book is pretty dark. I mean, if they made it into a movie I'd probably want to watch it, but in the comfort of my own home and in the middle of the day! ;) Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate it!

    2. Bridget Asher

      February 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Here's the NYTimes review that'll post this Sunday. Hope it adds to the discussion here?

      (it'll say Bridget Asher below but this is Baggott — I found this review through the fabulous tweets of Katy's Budget Books — hello all!)

    3. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 25, 2012 at 3:43 am

      Congratulations on the great NYTimes review! And thanks so much for stopping by here! I really appreciate it! I really did enjoy your book even though the review focused on a lot of the darker sides of the book. Like I said, there was only one part in the book that really shocked me. I can't wait to read the next book!

  10. LHughes

    February 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Great review. I had heard buzz, but didn't really know what this book was about. The darkness and setting really intrigues me despite the fact that I wouldn't call myself a gore and horror fan either.

    I'm really curious about how the cover incorporates the story. I have some guesses, but a book with a butterfly on the front I wouldn't normally peg as a good advertiser of a dark apocalyptic tale. :P

    You've been busy while I was away! I'm glad to be back in the blogosphere again!
    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      The butterfly does has some significance, and on the back there's a different kind of butterfly… It'll make sense once you read it, although I'm still not sure what the globe thing is. I always thought it was like a melted Earth until I saw the cover in person, but now I'm not sure if it's supposed to be the dome? I don't know…

      I'm looking forward to your review if you decide to read it!

  11. Anna

    February 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    You know, it was a rocky start for me too, so I ultimately put it down (I thought I was going to have nightmares of the sand people!!!)…but I've read a lot of great reviews so I'm thinking I need to rethink my decision!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      February 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      The Dusts definitely are creepy! But I ultimately really ended up liking it! I'm looking forward to your review if you decide to read it, and thanks so much for stopping by! ;)

  12. Persephone

    July 20, 2012 at 7:06 am

    I'm so picking up this book. I have been looking for books that are set immediately or during the collapse of civilization. This sounds fantastic (even with the level of darkness and twisty-ness you describe).

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      It is really good! I can't handle really gory stuff, but I don't think this one was too gory. It was just really really creepy and dark. Fantastic book, though! I hope you enjoy it!

  13. pagesunbound

    April 15, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I was really hesitant, but after hearing Julianna Baggott talk, I decided I basically NEEDED to read this. She said so many interesting things about her writing process and literature that I wanted to see what she had written. I'm really glad I did because this is such a haunting and literary book–and I dealt with the gruesomeness much better than I thought I would.

    Baggott did explain that she feels the POV of a chapter should always be that of the character with the most at stake in a situation, and sometimes she'll write a scene and then realize it should really be someone else's POV. I agree, however, that the third POV in Pure seemed sudden, since it just switches between two at first.

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