Contemporary Young Adult
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)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.
MY THOUGHTSPurity is a beautiful tapestry of words; colorful emotional threads woven together to create a unique story rich with humor that still touches on more serious issues like God, sex, and growing up. For those (like me) who tend to steer clear of books that have prominent religious overtones, fear not, Ms. Pearce approaches the topic with an intriguing and appealing combination of gravity and levity, making Shelby’s story not so much one specifically about her faith, but rather about her confusion as to her beliefs in the years following the loss of her mother. Shelby’s struggle to make sense of the tragedy is something far more universal in nature than an exploration of the tenets of any particular religion, and is therefore something that instantly connects us to her regardless of our personal views.
Shelby is hilarious, at times utterly ridiculous (in an amusing way), and a complete jumble of flaws and strengths endearingly combined to create a very human, very down-to-earth young woman. Her devotion to her mother’s memory and the last promises she made to her is something we can’t help but respect despite our ability to recognize that her singular and strict interpretation of those promises is not what her mother intended for her only daughter, and it’s both painful and poignant to watch as she stumbles trying to follow her mother’s words to the very letter. She questions life, death, and God, she makes mistakes, and she seeks out a sexual relationship for all the wrong reasons, but through all of that she’s someone who has our support, and often our laughter, because we know for her to discover the intent behind her mother’s promises rather than the literal interpretation she has to walk a road of her own making.
A true highlight of Shelby’s entirely-too-short tale of self-discovery is Ms. Pearce’s extraordinary sense of humor. We spend much of the story in tears laughing at Shelby’s antics as she pursues a loophole in the principles that guide her life, with one scene in particular involving a locked glass case containing condoms at the pharmacy causing our stomachs to cramp with the force of our mirth, and our faces to turn an entertaining shade of red on her behalf. Overall, Purity is a quick and hugely entertaining read, its appeal bound to be wide in scope regardless of the religious and sexual threads that run through it as a result of a truly charming protagonist, a little romance, and a whole lot of less-than romantic escapades.