Purity by Jackson Pearce Review

Monday, April 16, 2012

Title: Purity
Author: Jackson Pearce
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
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.
Shelby lost her mother at a tender, impressionable young age, and she promised her mother a few things before she died. She would always listen to her father, love as much as possible and live life without restraint. Life has changed a lot since her mother’s passing, but those promises haven’t. When she and her father’s worlds collide with the Princess Ball – a place where she’ll make a purity pledge she knows she can’t break – Shelby begins to question things. She will not break her vows, but she realizes there’s a loophole. If she loses her virginity before the ball, she’s not breaking any covenants after all. The vows, however, are just the beginning.

I’ve read a few of Jackson Pearce’s books now, and I’ve loved them all. She has this way with words that’s both completely illustrative, but also extremely straightforward and honest. Purity was no exception. With a protagonist that is human with flaws and all, a supporting cast of characters that are entertaining and engaging and a theme that’s tricky and tension-filled, the novel doesn’t back away from potential controversy. Fearless and evocative, emotional and heartfelt, Purity doesn’t back down, and it gives new light to those grey areas that religion and society so often like to gloss over.

Guys, there’s always going to be controversy when it comes to novels that touch on religion, purity, teen sex, death and more. I think the mistake these books often make is taking the situations and painting them in the authors’ points of view, rather than the mindset of the character. Purity, however, did something I found rather refreshing. Shelby was flawed. Trust me. She wasn’t a bad apple, but she wasn’t the nicest to those around her, she was a bit conniving at times and she made rash and often snap judgments without giving thought to the potential consequences. Rather than being obnoxious and cloying, however, I found Shelby almost endearing because she was so very human – flaws and all. Furthermore, Purity doesn’t shy away from the topic of religion and manages to display to very polar opposite sides without being preachy or attempting to sway you to one viewpoint. As readers, we’re allowed to see what we want to see within the novel, as it illustrates the story but has a sort of top-level ambivalence that prevents it from being obnoxious and overbearing. I will, however, state that as a religious person, I did feel my upbringing (my moral high ground, if you will) clashing with parts of the story at times. That, however, is not a flaw of Purity and, as a reader, I’ll choose to look at it as a strength because it made me both think and feel.

All in all, I think that Purity was a great book, and I believe the author brought a fabulous new voice to the topic and issue. I do have to note that those with strong religious convictions, aversions to teen sex and religious themes will probably find issue with this book. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy issue-driven contemporary.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Hmmmmm. I'm really curious to see what I'll think of this one. I tend to stay away from all things that even hint at religion, but I like how you described Jackson's handling of the subject matter and how the ambivalence allows readers to really think, feel and interpret on their own without having a particular viewpoint forced on them. Stunning review Melissa, I have this one waiting for me and I'm excited:)

  2. You flatter me haha I just realized I typed "to" instead of "two" up there. Yikes! 

    In all seriousness though, I think you might actually enjoy this!

  3. I feel she would annoy me if she just want a hookup before making that pledge.

  4. YAY! Glad you liked the book! I am looking forward to reading this one.

  5. I didn't even know Jackson Pearce had another book coming out! I will have to get a copy. I'm not afraid of religion or sex. Bring it on, let me see what she says. Love your review, it's honesty. Great review, Melissa.


  6. I've always thought that must be a tricky thing - how to give the characters beliefs and viewpoints that serve a general theme or idea, without coming across as preachy. I like how you described it here, that Pierce portrays multiple points of view, so that readers get a more rounded picture and can take their own message from it. 

  7. Melissa, such a great Review!! I want to read more Contemporary and although I haven't read something from Jackson Pearce before, this one sounds great. A perfect combination of light, fun but important topics! I am a little afraid of the religious topic... So I guess I have to see for myself :) 

  8. Great, thoughtful review! I love this part that you point out, "I’ll choose to look at it as a strength because it made me both think and feel." I think a book that makes you think about what you believe can sometimes help us understand WHY we believe what we believe. If that makes any sense. Ha. 

  9. Oooh, I just got this one to read and review for my Contemporary Month in June. I'm super excited about it because I LOVE reading the books with the religious themes in them. Great review, Melissa.  ;) 

  10. I love the points you made! Awesome review!
    I recently read another positive review on this one and combined with yours I think this is one I definitely want to read!


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