Plot Sketch: Before Shelby's mom died, she made her promise her three things: to listen and love her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Up until now, she's done a really good job of living without restraint, and obeying her mostly-uninvolved father. But now Shelby's got a conundrum on her hands impending Princess Ball, where she has to pledge her purity to her father. And her father won't let her out of it. This is the story of how Shelby tries to reconcile the Promises in her life, trying to find a loophole that allows her to keep both Promise One and Promise Three.
Verdict: This is one of those books I won't be able to reconcile for a while I'm afraid. And I can't explain to you why because it will spoil the book. But here's what I can tell you. The writing is on-par with Pearce's other work; while not sublime, it's solid. There are no giant gaping holes in the plot leaving me to second-guess Shelby's decisions or the journey she takes to get to the end. The characters are relatable and realistic. They're not an idealized version of today's teen or a grieving husband turned single parent.
I also like the structure of the book. Its chapters are titled in relationship to a big event at the end... one that if I tell you, will betray some of the suspense in the book because you don't know which event the countdown refers to. Which was pretty awesome.
That said, I'm still emotionally upended with this book. After I finished it last night, I laid in bed, wondering about how Shelby could have taken a different path. I came to the realization that she couldn't have. But that just made me so much more disappointed. This morning, after sleeping on it, I find that I'm not even disappointed in any of the characters, I'm disappointed in the situation. But the situation is one that probably thousands of teens in the world face each year, and it's real, and it just makes me sad that they have to go through something similar to what Shelby did. It sorta broke my heart.
PURITY is more complex than its surface suggests. Yes, there are major themes of *gasp* purity and virginity and respect in the book, but there are also deeper themes I wasn't expecting to encounter like God, religion, parenthood, and love - true love. Shelby's struggle with religion is so different than the normal struggles with God we see depicted in YA. It's a struggle that illustrates, and illustrates very vividly, that teens have a better grasp of logic and experience than they get credit for.
Personally, I think that this book will benefit parents of teens more than it will teens. And that's a good thing. The psychology of the teen mind is dead on, the reaction to conflict is exactly what I saw happen with a teen last week, and the lessons I learned as an adult have to be just as important - if not more - than the lessons that are inside for teens to learn. But of course I'd say that. I'm an adult.
Parents: There is sex in this book. The plot revolves around Shelby's plan to lose her virginity to satisfy both her parents. And *SPOILER* she does lose her virginity and not in a good way or one that even ends up mattering in the end *END SPOILER* There is usage of the f-word, I remember I think three instances, and it is used by the main character in a moment of anger in a true-to-form verb.
I want to give you a fantastic reference to compare it to and say that elements of this are similar to another great thing that I love, but honestly? I can't think of a pop culture reference that even closely parallels these themes or experiences. And that, my friends, is a first.
PURITY releases April 24, 2012 from Little, Brown. Preorder from Amazon.