22 February 2013

Purity by Jackson Pearce

A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

I'll probably be the first to admit that I have a total girl crush on Jackson Pearce, but with Purity, I'm a bit torn about how I feel about it.  On the one hand, I loved the honesty and gentle humor brought into a story borne on the concept of racing to lose one's virginity.  On the other, I thought it lacked a cleverness that I've come to expect of Jackson Pearce's work.  Despite that, Purity was a good read with a great cast of characters and memorable, heartfelt story.

Right away the main character, Shelby, establishes her style.  I love how honest her essence was -- it made it easy to connect with her and to sympathize with what she was going through.  I also loved her friends, Jonas and Ruby, and how she interacted with them.  They formed a truly cohesive unit that didn't seem forced or rehearsed, so it was fun to have them in the story.  I also like how Jonas and Ruby influenced Shelby.  They weren't petty or high and mighty when Shelby made a mistake.  I liked how they worked.

I also liked how Jackson Pearce didn't get preachy about the whole sex thing.  I think it would be pretty easy to start preaching from the pulpit about chastity, but Jackson Pearce showed real tact and finesse.  It felt like an honest take on how a teenage girl felt about losing her virginity.  I also really liked how the topic of God was interwoven throughout the story.  Again, wasn't in-your-face spirituality philosophy, but felt like an honest to goodness account of how a girl questions the existence and workings of God.

My issue was that, while heartfelt, there was something missing.  It's something small, something I would define as "cleverness," but has no real source.  The result is that I enjoyed the story but there was something niggling at me just below the surface, and it kept me from going out to buy a copy for myself.

Laced with humor, it was a great story and even though the outcome was predictable, it was satisfying. It reminds me why I like reading contemporaries.

Maybe even Mom wouldn't get it - why I doubt. Why I question. Maybe no one can understand what this feels like but me. I touch my neck, the spot where the cross charm hangs on Mom's neck. No one can understand because . . . they really don't know any better than I do. No matter what they think, how sure they are they've got everything figured out, they're as in the dark as I am.

Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 218
  • published - April 2012
  • publisher - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • other books by Jackson Pearce - 
    • As You Wish
    • Sisters Red
    • Sweetly
    • Fathomless