Friday, March 22, 2013

Purity, by Jackson Pearce

When Shelby's mother was dying, she asked her daughter to promise her three things:  to listen to and love her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint.  And after Mom dies, Shelby is determined to honor those promises.  In fact, they become a lifeline for her as she comes to doubt just about everything else in her life.  Her best friend Jonas even helps her keep track of a bucket list in order to keep her constantly working on promise #3.

However, when her father suggests that they participate in a father-daughter "Princess Ball" at which the girls will pledge to their fathers to remain "pure," Shelby is torn.  She's uncomfortable making such a promise to her Dad, but promise #1 to Mom means that she must do whatever he wants and then live by the pledge she makes.  Somehow, she must figure out a loophole to get around it, and figure it out before the Ball takes place.  Otherwise, she'll have to make the pledge.

When I read the synopsis of the book, it seemed a bit silly to me - a bit like the premise of a sitcom: girl tries to wiggle out of deathbed promise to Mom.  The book, however, wasn't like that at all.  Instead, there were some serious questions raised by the author about how we remember and honor our parents' wishes.  And some nice insights on faith and regaining a sense of faith when it has been seriously challenged (in this case, forcing Shelby to reconcile her anger with God with her need to believe in an Afterlife for her mother). 

Be warned (or intrigued): there's also a strong sexual theme going on (a bulk of the book is devoted to Shelby's attempt to lose her virginity), but it's integral to the plot and treated candidly and intelligently.  It didn't feel particularly exploitative.

Instead, it's hard not to like Shelby's strong character and her ability to stand up for herself.  And as a parent-aged male, I'd be lying to say that I didn't relate to Shelby's father and really take a punch to the gut reading how she and her father struggle to sort out their relationship.  Not that the book is all heavy stuff.  There's also some amazing humor that will have you rolling (for example, the every hilarious condom purchasing scene). 

This is truly an amazing book and really the best one I've read this year so far.

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