Hello dear readers! In case you missed the announcement on Twitter (you follow Kim on Twitter, right? RIGHT?!), I’m Christine—the newest staff member here at Reflections of a Book Addict. And this is my first review! I know, I’m a bit nervous about this too.
Now that we got that awkward bit out of the way, onward to Purity!
I knew of Jackson Pearce’s books, but I didn’t really pay attention to them until I heard her talk on a panel at the Austin Teen Book Fest last year. During the Q&A session, I leaned over to one of the teens I had dragged to the event (they were my cover, so-to-speak) and whispered, “I think I have a girl crush on Jackson Pearce.” “Me too! I want to read her books.” “Do you think we should ask her out for tacos?” “Mmmm, probably not.” “Fine. I guess I’ll just read her books.” Shortly thereafter I quickly devoured her first two books, As You Wish and Sister’s Red, and became an instant fan of hers.
I was intrigued when I first heard the premise of Purity: A girl tries to lose her virginity before attending The Princess Ball with her father, where she will take a vow to live a life of purity. You see in high school, I attended a church that had a yearly “True Love Waits” weekend seminar. It was basically a day to show slides of STDs and talk about abstinence and saving sex for marriage (I never went, but this is what my friends told me). On Sunday during the church service, there was a commitment ceremony between the teens and parents who attended. The teenagers would promise to guard their heart and save sex for marriage and the parents would promise to support their kids in whatever way they could. Most of the parents would give their kids a “True Love Waits” ring which they were supposed to wear until they swapped it for an engagement ring or until their wedding day, when they would give the ring to their spouse or something. Half of the teens I knew lost their ring within the first few months and then we would make jokes like, “Matt lost his True Love Waits ring! Guess this means you can go have sex now!” We were very mature teenagers.
While I am very familiar with the “True Love Waits” culture, I will say the idea of having a ball where girls wear white dresses and vow their purity to their fathers is a bit, uh, out there even for me. This was the main reason I wanted to read the book. I wanted to see how Jackson Pearce handled the idea of purity and people who believe in abstinence until marriage.
The thing is, that really isn’t what this book is about.
Yes, the whole plot of the novel revolves around 16-year-old Shelby’s quest to lose her v-card before the Princess Ball in five weeks (which is a bit drastic, Shelby) with the help of her two best friends, Jonas and Ruby. Yes, one of her best friends is obviously in love with her. And yes, the girls who are attending the Princess Ball are essentially caricatures of girls I knew in high school: the ones who take the vow seriously, the ones who obviously don’t care, and the ones who are pretending to care.
Really, this is a story about a girl who made three promises to her dying mother.
1. Love and listen to your father.
2. Love as much as possible.
3. Live without restraint.
Shelby lives her life by these three rules, although she does so perhaps a bit too legalistically. But that’s the thing with teenagers, they often want everything to be black or white because it’s a hell of a lot easier to understand life when it’s not grey. The ideas and questions raised in the book were deeper than I expected, as Shelby learns to reconcile the three promises and what they really mean when it comes to living her life.
While many of the choices Shelby makes in the book are a bit frustrating, they were choices a real teen would make. There were moments in the book I wanted to yell “Just go talk to your dad! Listen to your friends! Really tell him what you think about this stupid ball!” But that is 27-year-old Christine talking. 16-year-old Christine would have probably done the same thing Shelby does: just go along with whatever to make her dad happy.
What I appreciated about this book was the frank and simple way sex and God were discussed. Those are two very polarizing topics, and I applaud Jackson Pearce for tackling both in the same book. I really liked that the story did not go exactly like I thought it would. Life is awkward and messy, people can have faith and doubt at the same. It was refreshing to read a “real life” YA book that wasn’t wrapped up neatly and tied with a bow in the end.
I would definitely recommend this book to an older teen. It’s a good book with a healthy sense of humor to help them start thinking about their own lives, and question why they are making the choices they are and who they are doing it for—themselves or just to please an adult?
4 out of 5 Stars
Purity by Jackson Pearce
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012)
Hardcover: 224 pages