Pure by Julianna Baggott
Atomic bombs have destroyed the world. Now there are two types of survivors: wretches who were caught in the blast and have been horribly deformed, and “Pures”, the lucky few who managed to make it inside The Dome. For ten years these two groups have lived separate lives, but things are about to change.
Pressia is a wretch living with her grandfather. Life is difficult for them and food is hard to come by. She is nearing her 16th birthday, when wretches are taken by OSR, or Operation Sacred Revolution, and are either forced to kill or be used as target practice.
Partridge has lived inside The Dome since the day of the Detonations. As the son the creator of The Dome, he has lived a life of privilege, but he doesn’t quite fit in with everyone else. His father is distant, cold, and dismissive, and his mother and brother are both dead. Then one day his father says something that suggests his mother may still be alive on the outside, and Partridge decides to escape.
On the run from the OSR, Pressia soon meets Partridge and they quickly learn they must work together to continue to survive. Pressia helps Partridge try to find his mom and Partridge helps Pressia fight the enemy. But who is the enemy, and can they find Partridge’s mother before it’s too late?
The majority of the story focuses on two of the central characters, Pressia and Partridge, coming into contact with each other and how that meeting shapes their different lives. Pressia is a brilliant main character. She is fierce, determined, and brave, but her strength wasn’t shown outright; it was slowly expressed through her persistence when facing fear and the unknown. She is not physically strong or bold, and she definitely has weaknesses. I often found myself forgetting she is only 16 because the life she has lived while trying to survive as a deformed wretch has given her a maturity no 16-year-old should have.
Although highly intelligent and medically enhanced to have super strength and speed, Partridge almost seems naïve about the world he enters. Nothing he was taught in The Dome has prepared him for the reality of life outside, but his ability to adapt to changes quickly enables him to swiftly fit in with Pressia and the others. Amidst all he has to learn, Partridge also has to deal with information he learns about himself and his family that alters the truth of his existence and the way he does shows the power of his character.
Among the other characters showcased in this book I would have to say I was most drawn to Bradwell and El Capitan. At first Bradwell seems aloof and distant, but by the end you can see his detachment is just a protective front. He is refreshingly blunt as he has no time for nonsense, and is very firm in his beliefs about The Dome and what it represents. El Capitan is part of the OSR and is responsible for Pressia’s capture. However, he shows a deep compassion for her that shows he is an admirable character in this chaotic world.
I don’t think I can say enough about the world-building Baggott has accomplished. The vast difference between life in The Dome and survival outside is described with utmost detail. I must admit some of the bizarre physical deformities made me squirm a little at first, but it only lent itself to the credibility of the creepy and sinister world the author has created.
Everything a reader could want in a post-apocalyptic story can be found in Pure, including government conspiracy, crazy mutations, and intense plot twists. While much of this bizarre and disconcerting tale reads like it came from the darkest recesses of Baggott’s subconscious, hidden within is a futuristic narrative that echoes some of the gloomiest times in our own history. It is a beautifully written, alarming, and uncompromising look at what humanity is capable of, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.