Google+ YA Romantics: Standalone Saturday ... Purity

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Standalone Saturday ... Purity

Reviews of great standalone Young Adult books

Purity by Jackson Pearce

by Jackson Pearce

Published by: Little Brown BYR

On: April 24, 2012

Source: purchased from independent bookstore

Content: this book tackles teen sex and religion in a provocative but thought-provoking way

My summary: As a child, Shelby made three promises to her dying mother: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Nearly six years later, Shelby is working hard on promises two and three. She has a pair of close friends who are helping her get through her Life List, four hundred daring things she wants to do. She's not making as much progress with promise one. She and her father aren't terribly close. When Shelby's dad joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, Shelby has a dilemma. Her mom participated in the ball and Shelby thinks planning it with her father might bring them closer. But part of the ball is a ceremony in which the girls pledge to lead a "pure" life. Shelby doesn't think it's realistic to stay pure until marriage, so she resolves to have sex before she makes the pledge. Except she doesn't have a boyfriend. She'll have to start a new list..

My take:  I've heard that Jackson Pearce writes edgy, imaginative books, and I was excited to try her first contemporary. Two things I'll say about Purity straight off: first, it tackles the tricky subjects of religion and teen sex head on. Second, the book's premise is going to attract some people and horrify others.

Purity's premise does require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. Shelby wants to honor the promises she made to her mother while also honoring the pledge her father wants her to make. That's admirable. But then she decides that the best way to accomplish this is to hook up with any willing guy.  Shelby's best friend Jonas even makes a joke about Shelby's predicament, calling it a "perfect sitcom plot." I do love a writer with a sense of humor about her own premise!

I also admire the openness with which this book approaches the subject of teen sex. The book raises interesting questions. What does "purity" really mean? Is purity until marriage realistic when people often marry in their thirties? Do chastity pledges work? I don't think the book will end up changing anyone's mind on these issues, but I have to give Jackson Pearce credit for raising them.

What I liked most about Purity was its depiction of a father-daughter relationship. Shelby is still angry about the loss of her mother, and she and her father awkwardly circle one another, trying to ignore the huge hole in their family. I found their emotional distance from one another heartbreaking.

I also appreciated the fact that the book isn't preachy; it's the story of one girl and the choices that she makes. I didn't agree with all Shelby's choices, but I was rooting for her to figure everything out. (I can't say I was rooting for her to throw herself at some random guy, and I won't tell you whether or not her somewhat dubious plans come to fruition.)

And the cover. I love it so much! There's a key on the back.

Have you read either of Jackson Pearce's two fairy tale retellings, Sweetly and Sisters Red? If so, which one do you recommend I start with?


  1. I have been wanting to read this book. I'm starting to get more into contemporary books and this one sounds really good. Great review!!

  2. To tell you the truth, this book hasn't really piqued my interest. I think I was worried it would be in-your-face-religious and preachy. Glad to hear that it's not, that makes me more interested. And the cover is really cute. Actually I love ALL of Jackson Pearce's covers, especially Sister's Red. (In fact I love the cover MORE than the book, ahem.) Thanks for the honest review Jen:)

  3. I have never read anything by this author. I've been on the fence because I was worried it would be overly religious and I avoid those types of books. I do understand her dilemma, trying to please both her parents. I don't think she should just sleep with anybody though. I think she needs to just tell her dad that she doesn't want to take that promise. My guess is they finally talk through everything at the end. I like that people are living their lives and becoming independent before they get married in their 30s but yeah I would never expect anyone to stay a virgin until then lol Makes me think of the 40 year old virgin movie which was hilarious.

    1. Actually, after writing my review I read some other reviews that were disturbed by the book's lack of religiousness. Religiosity?

      And yes, that is the problem with the sitcom premise -- misunderstandings that could be cleared up by talking. But if you're going to read the book, I think you just have to go with the premise.

      And, hmm.... you might be surprised about what happens. I was!

    2. oh really! The ending was surprising! Some reviews thought there should be more religion? Now that I look over it again it just mentions her dad wants her to make the promise to wait till marriage but that choice isn't always based on religion. I think a lot of fathers and parents just hope their kids wait. I myself have no fake notions of this happening with my future kids. lol Now you have many very curious about this book!

  4. It's reached a point now that when I find a standalone - thank you - I automatically add it to my reading list.

    I haven't read anything by Jackson Pearce yet. Life really does get in the way of reading time.

    1. I hear you -- on both fronts. It's so satisfying to read a book that actually has a conclusion!

  5. I haven't read a Jackson Pearce books yet. :(

    NOT PREACHY! You just sold me on this book! I usually avoid YA books that touch on religious themes unless I hear that they aren't preachy...this is good news!

    1. I did not find it preachy. Try it and let me know if you liked it!

      I like reading books with characters who have different backgrounds and beliefs and all that. That's part of why I read -- to find out what makes other people tick. But I don't want to read a book that tries to tells me what to think. I think that's especially problematic in YA. The minute kids sense a whiff of lecturing, they tune out.

      I say just tell me the story and let me make up my own mind!

  6. This one is on my review pile and I've heard LOVE it & HATE it so far from others so we'll see where I fall after reading.

    1. It does seem to be provoking strong feelings, which makes things way more interesting!

      I enjoyed it and it made me think. I can't say loved or hated.....

  7. I've heard some mixed reactions about this book, but I'm still interested in it, so I'm glad you liked it! And I really want to read Sisters Red - I've heard that one is really good! Great review, Jen!

  8. I'm not sure if I want to read this one. Promises that get twisted out of context really annoy me. But I read Sisters Red (well... the audio and I hated the narrators) and while I had issues with it, it was one of the most thought provoking books I've read this year. I'm definitely going to be reading Sweetly and Fathomless looks awesome!

  9. I just finished reading and I think I'll have do a vlog review because I can't organize my thoughts about it with words as well as you ;)
    I really liked "Sisters Red" -- bought "Sweetly" but haven't read it yet -- CAN'T WAIT FOR "FATHOMLESS". Also her first book was "As You Wish" about a girl and her jinn as again with suspension of disbelief I liked it.
    I like Jackson because she throws so much at you at once that seems like it should work and not only does it work but she makes it fun.

    1. I'll be watching for the vlog!
      I'm going to read Sisters Red next while I'm waiting for Fathomless...


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