A young adult book about virginity, the loss there of and strong religious themes like Purity by Jackson Pearce is bound to cause some controversy. Y’all, I think Purity has an audience and perhaps that audience is someone like me, because it didn’t offend me like it did a few of my friends.
Shelby is just finishing her finals and about to being the summer before senior year. She is doing her best to live out promises made on her mother’s death bed – love and listen to dad and live without restraint. When Shelby’s dad volunteers to run the Princess Ball, she sees a conflict in her promises because one tenant of the ball is that the girls make a purity pledge to their dads. She takes her promises very seriously and with the help of her friends -Jonas and Ruby- searches for a loophole, eventually deciding that if she loses her virginity before the ball, the pledge is null and void as there is no purity to begin with.
I think that maybe I have more understanding than your average person for Shelby and her ridiculous plan for a few reasons. One, she makes the promises when she is young – 10 years old to be exact – and to lose a parent as a kid is really traumatizing. Shelby may not process the promises like a normal person does because the death of her mother may have caused some post traumatic stress and she doesn’t see that they are not the end-all, be-all and is not logical about them. Second, I also realize a lot of Shelby’s issues could have been avoided if she’d just communicate with her dad, but I remember being a teen and also not communicating with my parents except to fight.
I also didn’t mind the religious themes in Purity so much because I’ve been there. And to make this personal and you, the reader, aware of the bias I walked in and read Purity with – I went to “Jesus Camp” as a kid, I once made and broke a purity pledge, hell I not only went to church on Sunday, but also on Wednesdays and was a Vacation Bible School counselor. Like Shelby, I questioned my faith and ultimately walked away from all that religion. And I think that maybe her decision was made lightly with not a lot of deep soul searching, but I can understand her.
Shelby’s not a perfect character. She makes snap judgments. She doesn’t treat some people well. She uses people. But I saw a bit of myself in her and perhaps this is why I am not anti-Purity, because her questioning might as well have been my questioning. I guess I’d recommend Jackson Pearce’s latest book with reservations — if you’ve got a similar background to me and had sort of similar experience, you might wanna try it.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.