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Gritty post-apocalyptic story with strong heroine.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Nothing specifically educational, though readers might be excited to learn more about nanotechnology and "black boxes" after reading.

Positive messages

Though set in a post-apocalyptic world where life is grim, the main characters are determined to make positive connections. The idea that beauty can be found anywhere runs throughout, as well as the idea that corruption and evil can be resisted by determined allies. There is a subtle theme of self-acceptance and the rejection of shame due to difference.

Positive role models

Pressia is a strong, determined, loyal teen who risks her own safety for others and sees the good in those others dismiss. She also has a strong moral code. Partridge breaks free from expectations to do what is right and risks his safety for others. Secondary characters range from flawed but ultimately good, to brainwashed, to evil.


Graphic, creepy imagery throughout -- most characters have deformities caused by a massive bombing -- where objects are fused to their bodies. Some are straightforward (a doll head fused to a hand) while others are grotesque (a whirring fan stuck in a throat). Some part-human creatures are hostile or violent. Several scenes involve deadly fights with weapons ranging from rifles to meat hooks. Main characters are threatened and injured. Several deaths, including one very sad, very sudden, bloody death involving a parent. One character is said to have committed suicide with a gun.


One kiss, which is referenced several times. Some discussion of reproduction practices in post-apocalyptic world. A reference to an affair and a child born "out of wedlock." Some subtle flirtation.


A bit of language sprinkled throughout: "s--t," "Goddamn," "hell," "damn," "bastard," and "Jesus" used as an exclamation.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character smokes a cigar. Monsterous creatures are said to be drunk. Storylines involve characters receiving performance-enhancing drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Pure is the first in a post-apocalyptic YA trilogy and features plenty of grotesque imagery and several violent, bloody conflicts, a few that end in death or injury. In one scene a parental figure dies in a sudden, bloody manner. Characters use guns and knives to defend themselves, and there is a somber tone throughout. A few critical or questioning references to God and Christianity might upset some readers. Characters occasionally use strong language.

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What's the story?

PURE begins many years after the Detonations -- a series of bombings that destroyed much of the world and caused everyday objects (and in some cases humans) to be fused with people. It's in this post-apocalyptic world that 16-year-old Pressia Belze, who can barely remember life before the Detonations, hides from the military police and occasionally gazes upon the Dome, where a small portion of the population was protected from the destruction (and remains physically \"pure\"). Pressia stumbles upon Partridge, the son of the mastermind behind the Detonations, who has escaped from the Dome in hopes of finding his mother. They join together with a defector from the Secret Police and an underground rebel to seek out Partridge's mother and in the process learn more about Pressia's mysterious past.

Is it any good?


Brisk, detailed, and strangely compelling, Julianna Baggott's first book of the Pure trilogy combines grotesque images with strongly moral characters who feel real despite their dystopian setting. As teens, both Pressia Belze and Partridge Willux are questioning their identities and developing their values. Driven by their internal sense of right and wrong, they fight to both uncover their personal secrets and find some justice in the midst of an unfair division between the "pures" and the "wretches," or those who were protected from the devastating Detonations, and those who were not.

Baggott's writing is particularly lovely, evoking tender feelings, heightened emotions, and the brutal landscape of her imagination. Teen and adult readers will be spooked by the gruesome imagery, but fascinated, too. Readers can draw connections between the items fused to each character (such a as a doll head fused to a hand) and that individual's personality, as well as connections between the moral issues related to power and corruption and real-life politics and culture. Running throughout the story is the teen-friendly theme of accepting yourself and being proud of what makes you unique.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about post-apocalyptic stories. Why are these kinds of stories so popular? Do you see any connections between current political or economic trends and the themes in this book? How is this dystopia different from others you've read about?

  • Talk about Pressia. What makes her a relatable character? Can you think of other literary heroines she resembles? What makes her different from others?

  • What makes this a YA book? Is it just because the main characters are teenagers?

Book details

Author:Julianna Baggott
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:February 8, 2012
Number of pages:448
Available on:Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

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Adult Written bylizwinn March 12, 2015
Nine years after the earth is devastated from an atomic blast, the remains of civilized society huddle under a dome that overlooks a wasteland. Those who live outside the Dome are horribly disfigured mutants who live on a hand-to-mouth existence. When Partridge Willux, the next-in-line for leadership of the Dome, escapes into the poisoned wasteland to look for his mother, he meets a young mutant girl named Pressia. Together, the two begin a journey that leads them to an unexpected destiny. Pure, the first is a series, is an amazing, imaginative novel with excellent world-building details and character development. Recommended for Ages 16-18, but will also appeal to adults with an interest in dystopian fiction and science fiction.


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