Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.
Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.
Release Date: April 24, 2012
A very big thank you to
for the opportunity to read this book!
PREFACE:I was both excited and nervous about reading this book. This was my first Jackson Pearce novel and I already knew she is hilarious from watching her many videos. But I was hesitant as well because of the subject matter of Purity. Would the story be too pushy, preachy, or irreverent for my tastes? With topics like faith, virginity, and grief, it could have gone any of several directions. So which direction did Purity take?
The honest one.
WRITING:Having never read any of Pearce's novel before, I didn't know what to expect in this area. I found quickly that Pearce has a direct, clear writing style (at least for this contemporary) and I enjoyed it. She got across what needed to be said without any unnecessary words while still giving the reader enough to work with.
While the overall setting of the novel isn't really that important, there were several scenes that were written well and easy to imagine. The teens in the story go around town, from some abandoned railroad tracks over water to Shelby, the main character's, home, to a church decked out for a ball. As I said above, Pearce does well using just the right amount of description while still keeping the pace moving.
CHARACTERS:Shelby, the protagonist, was an interesting character. She suffered a tremendous loss when her mom died and that loss has stayed with her and she thinks about it often. She also made some promises to her mother that she takes more seriously than anything else. Shelby thinks that keeping these promises is the most important thing in her life and it was quite a journey seeing her come to terms when her life no longer lined up with these promises.
I thought Pearce did an excellent job portraying someone who thinks they are fine when really they are consumed with a grief that is controlling her life. Shelby is a fully functioning person, she's not going around crying all the time or hiding out all alone, but the death of her mom defines her. It affects everything she thinks, says, and does. Because of this, her actions make more sense to me than they would under different circumstances, but more about that later.
Shelby's friends, Jonas and Ruby, were also well-formed characters and I liked them a lot. I also enjoyed Shelby's dad because I think his relationship with Shelby was quite indicative of a lot of parent-child relationships.
I had a tough time coming to terms with Shelby's decision to lose her virginity in order to uphold the promises she made to her mother. No matter what religious or moral beliefs may be present, I feel that a woman's body is extremely important and sacred and should be treated with the utmost respect and care. In my humble opinion, having casual sex does not fit with that line of thinking. Having casual sex, or as Ruby puts it, "just getting laid," diminishes the actual impact sex can have on a person both physically and emotionally. I know there are people who believe sex is sex and it isn't a big deal and emotions and feelings don't have to be a part of it and seem to live just fine that way, but from what I know of the subject, any kind of sexual activity can impact a person in ways they don't want or expect.
So that being said, it was difficult for me to root for Shelby to achieve her goal. In fact, I did not root for her in that respect. I just couldn't. But I did understand where she was coming from. When you look at exactly how important those promises are to her, and they are in fact the most important thing in her life, you see how she comes to the conclusions that she does about her choices.
My only other downside is that sometimes the revelations Shelby has about her life come out all at once and I almost felt like it was rushed and too easy in a way. I mean, I liked that she reached these points of understanding and growth, and it wasn't that she hadn't gone through a lot, it just seemed a little quick and too neatly tied up.
COOL STUFF:Despite not wanting Shelby to go through with her plan, I was satisfied with how things wound up at the end. I think the belief that sometimes you have to go through the good, the bad, and the ugly to come out better on the other side rings true. I know I made mistakes growing up, and also did some stuff that I don't consider to be mistakes that others would, to end up where I am and being the person I am. It was a nice secondary message that came out toward the end and I was glad for it.
My favorite thing was how honest the novel was. As a person of faith, I'm always worried when faith is part of a novel and that it will be skewed to an extreme one way or another. But Pearce did well by not focusing on religion and rather on Shelby's personal struggles and doubts, which everyone has to some extent. Add in Shelby's way of coping with her loss and her relationship with her dad and her friends, and I think this novel really touches so much on real life, which is why it resonates.
I was also impressed with how Pearce worked everything out to help Shelby realize some truths about herself, her plans, and her promises. There for a while it seemed that there was going to be no opposition to Shelby's way of thinking from those who knew about her plan, but when it showed up, it was perfect. Everything resolves itself pretty well and leaves off with everything coming full circle.
VERDICT:While I struggled with some of the protagonist's decisions in Purity, I was impressed with the honesty and humor Pearce uses to tell a story about the intersection between faith, loss, love, sex, and doubt. This is a quick, well-written read that I would recommend to most anyone and especially to fans of contemporary YA. And due to my good experience with this novel, I will definitely be reading more by Pearce.