First published on 22 Feb 2012. Updated on 28 Feb 2012.
The first novel in an intended trilogy, Pure is a dystopian story set 10 years after a series of explosions that changed the world. The result was the creation of two streams of citizens – 'pures' who were protected by a massive blast-proof dome, and 'wretches' on the outside who were left mutated and defenceless – which lays the foundations for a tension-filled tale when these two worlds inevitably collide.
Pressia and Partridge are the key protagonists from either side of the divide, who are joined by a slew of supporting characters to keep out of way of the military regimes while they find and fight for lost loved ones and try to survive. Not the most inspired narrative but it is a formula that works.
Author Julianna Baggott introduces younger readers to the dystopian trope through her teenage characters, which helps makes her ideas both easy to grasp and very entertaining. Pure is an easy to read epic thanks to Baggott's skillful descriptions of both complex characters and labyrinth like scenery. Sadly though the third-person present-tense narration and excessively short sentences don't do justice to the action sequences and much of the dialogue ends up sounding cumbersome and forced.
The story's momentum is supplied by intricate plot twists that see many small details return as vital components to the conclusion of the novel. While this makes it near impossible to get bored, too many twists pervert the writing and shatter the suspended disbelief of the reader. You may be able to accept a doom-laden novel about life divided between the inside and outside of a gigantic dome, but the whole scenario becomes less convincing, not more, as the story unfolds.
Pure contains sporadic passages of beautiful prose, but they are few and far between, which is a shame coming from a best-selling author with a sizable back catalogue. There is talk that a film adaptation is already on the cards – and to be made by Twilight's lead producer Karen Rosenfelt no less – and Baggott's writing will undoubtedly translate well onto film, but the jury is out on whether the cheesy dialogue and awkward action that occasionally make Pure a cringe-worthy read will come across better, or so much worse, on the silver screen.