Reading level: Young Adult
Size: 448 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 8, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in the Pure Trilogy
Source: ARC from Book Expo America
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book to review at Book Expo America last summer. I wasn’t sure what to expect when reading it. It ended up being a very well done novel; it is intruguing and well written…yet also disturbing and discomforting. The second book will be titled Fuse and is schedule to release later in 2012, the third will be titled The New After and is scheduled for a 2013 release.
When the Detonations went off some people made it into the Dome and others didn’t. Pressia is one of the ones who didn’t and she now lives with her grandfather in a small shed where she has a cabinet to hide in. As her sixteenth birthday approaches she knows she will be taken unless she escapes. Partridge lives in the Dome but doesn’t want to; he thinks his mother is still out there somewhere alive and wants to escape the Dome to find her. When Pressia and Partridge meet up they uncover mysteries behind the Detonations that will change the world as they know it.
This book is told from four viewpoints. Pressia, Partridge, Luna (a girl who is friends with Partridge) and El Captain (an official who ends up entangled with Pressia’s story). The viewpoint changes actually work fairly well in this book. Having two viewpoints from people in the Dome and two viewpoints from people outside the Dome makes for an interesting balance in the story.
This is a dark story and as a reader you have to suspend your disbelief for a large part of the story to work. A big part of what happened during the Detonations was that people were merged with things. This is explained away as happening because a mixture of radiation and nanotechnology that was included in the Detonations. I had a lot of trouble with that hand-waving explanation. Let me elaborate…so Pressia has her arm ending in a doll’s head because she was holding a doll when the Detonations happened. Bradwell has a flock of birds merged into his back so he forever has birds flapping in his back. Mothers are merged with the children they were holding, the children are part of them and never age. Humans are merged with the Earth, creating monsters called Dusts. Humans are merged with a variety of debris as well and have glass and metal pockmarking their bodies. I don’t know why I had so much trouble with this but it just seemed like you would have to have some pretty special nanotechnology to have this happen and have people be able to live this way. It seemed inconsistent…but whatever…I guess it is a fantasy of sorts…so let’s try and get beyond that.
The chapters are very short, so you get snippets from each characters viewpoint. The story progresses in a stark and halting way because of this, but it works for this story because of the bleakness and starkness of the surroundings. The characters are all very well done, multi-dimensional and interesting to get to know. They do suffer a bit from the common problem a story has when it has so many viewpoints; you never feel like you get to know any of them all that well…it is hard to engage with them.
The main thing that propels the story forward is the mystery behind the Detonations and how Partridge’s mother was involved in it. The plot itself is a bit too neat and convenient at times and makes the story seem somewhat contrived. The story itself is kind of grossly fascinating in that you never know what strange and deformed thing Baggott will throw at you next. What will be merged with what living thing next? Will the next person have a plate of glass for a face or a toy protruding from their arm?
Is this a ground-breaking novel? Not really. It blends a lot of elements from other dystopia and post-apocalyptic novels out there. It is well done and engaging. The inclusion of nanotechnology as a bioweapon that causes humans to merge with inanimate (and occasionally animate) objects is unique and interesting but unbelievable and never well explained. The novel ties up nicely leaving our characters at a good starting point for the next book in the series, Fuse.
Overall I enjoyed this gritty and slightly disturbing dystopia/post-apocalyptic YA book. The characters are well done, if a bit hard to engage with because of the multiple viewpoints. The story is well done and engaging, the world of humans merged with inanimate objects (or sometimes other living objects) is fascinating if a bit unbelievable. This isn’t a ground-breaking novel, but it is a good read for fans of the genre and left me wondering what will happen next.