Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Purity by Jackson Pearce

Tags: YA, contemporary, death, sex, father-daughter relationships


Several years after her mother died, Shelby still manages to keep three promises she made to her. However, the promises—of which one involves listening to her father—prove hard to keep when Shelby’s father asks her to participate with him in the father-daughter Princess Ball, during which the daughter will vow to lead a “pure” life.

To Shelby, this means one thing: that she must have sex before the Ball, so that the vow will be null. But finding someone to have sex with her in the space of a few weeks proves harder than she thinks. And along the way, Shelby realizes the true meaning of the other two promises she made her mother: to love as much as possible and to live without restraint.


PURITY had a great premise that catches the attention of even the most jaded of readers—promises to a dead person! a ball! SEX!—but unfortunately, the book fell flat for me. The story seems to struggle with an identity crisis over whether it’s lighthearted or philosophical, with the result that it doesn’t really succeed at either end.

The good thing is that the characters, their relationships with one another, and the story’s romance are done very well. Shelby is a bit of a Jane Everygirl, which was slightly disappointing, as there was great potential for her to have some interesting quirks, and not every story requires an Everygirl at its heart in order for it to be relatable and likable. Fortunately, other characters, such as Shelby’s friends, are lovely to read about. Nothing too special about them, but they’re nice and supportive and people whom you want to be your friends. Shelby’s relationship with her father is more noteworthy, in that I think that a fair number of daughters can relate to Shelby and her father’s awkward yet fierce love for each other.

What tripped me up about PURITY, however, was its intent. Was it a straightforward novel about overcoming lifelong grief, looking for sex, and finding love instead? If PURITY wanted simply to be a grief novel, I think I would have been okay with it. Grief novels are obviously a dime a number in YA literature these days, but there are still some decent, if perhaps not original, stories among the lot. However, at many points PURITY dipped into random paragraphs about questioning one’s belief in God and faith, and I suppose that I didn’t feel like the religion aspect of this book was built up enough to support Shelby’s questioning thoughts.

PURITY is a noble effort at making different a tried-and-true contemporary YA routine, but ultimately it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Read it if you want a slightly different spin on the classic grief novel, albeit one that doesn’t entirely succeed at being different.

Similar Authors
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Cover discussion: I like it... I think. I can't help but wonder if it connotes something slightly off about the book, though. Either this reminds you of the cover for Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key, or this seems like a candy-colored book aimed for younger teens.

Little, Brown / April 24, 2012 / Hardcover / 224pp. / $17.99

e-galley received from publisher and NetGalley.

1 comment:

  1. Haven't read any reviews on Purity, but this one is probably the only one I need to read. And I totally dig that cover, too. Curious to see what it looks like IRL, though.


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