For our recent book club, we read Pure by Julianna Baggot. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than I knew it would be a post-apocalyptic YA novel. When I started it, it was pretty scary to me, so much so that I tried not to read it before I went to sleep, but then I got so hooked that I couldn’t stop reading. The only day that I put the book down was the tragic day of the Boston bombings. To me, it was too surreal to read about a world with Detonations when there were actual bombs going off at a marathon. It was too eerily similar.
While Pure was a tough read for me because of the dark places that it goes, I was drawn to the beautiful writing and the intense drama. I just had to know what happened to each character.
In the back of my copy, there are some group discussion questions so I thought it would be fun to use some of them since it has a reading group guide. My copy also had an excerpt for Fuse, which was equally gripping and scary as well.
Here’s our discussion questions:
1) At first, I was scared by the doll’s head on Pressia’s arm, mainly because I’m scared of dolls with blinky eyes (cue the nightmares). But my perception of the doll’s face in her arm changed because of how, at first, she seemed ashamed of it by hiding it with her sleeve and when she admits that she tried to cut it off. In the end, the doll’s face was her ally. What did you think of Pressia’s relationship to her doll’s head? What about Bradwell’s birds? What do you think Baggott was trying to say by creating characters that were fused to animals, objects, and even the earth?
2) In the intro to the reading group guide in the book, Baggott writes, “Pure is dedicated to my daughter. She’s the age of the main character. I read her a very early snippet. She told me that it was the best thing I’d ever written and pushed me to write this novel. I don’t know what struck her exactly. But it resonated. Maybe it’s the idea that everyday life sometimes is polished up to look perfect—Dome-like—but, in truth, it can feel like an ashen wasteland. We all struggle at different times in our lives. Sometimes a post-apocalyptic novel simply feels like the honest emotional truth.” Do you agree?
3) How does Pressia change throughout the book? Compare and contrast Pressia at the beginning versus Pressia at the end.
4) Discuss the relationship between El Capitan and Helmud. Why is El Capitan proud of Helmud when he realizes that Helmud was plotting to kill him?
5) Through various female characters, we get glimpses of the gender roles imposed by this society—the Mothers and their hatred of men, the Dome’s refusal to let boys take art classes because they aren’t “useful,” and Ingership’s wife’s participation in the Feminine Feminists. What do you think of this society’s ideal version of a woman? How does it compare to our world?
6) I was really struck by the relationships in this novel. Lyda and Partridge, Bradwell and Pressia, and eventually Pressia and Partridge. Each relationship sacrificed for the other. To me, it wasn’t the typical teen romance because the world was so atypical, but there was still the same feelings of hope, want, and the desire to care for the other person, even if they weren’t physically close. Which relationship was your favorite?
7) There are so many different worlds happening within Pure from the Dome to where the “wretches” live. I was fascinated by the perception of the past (3-D movies, Mickey Mouse, and a dog in a party hat), playing the I Remember game, and when Pressia goes to Ingership’s house and she tastes oysters for the first time. How does memory play a role in this world?
Our next YA book is Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Please read it by June 25. Until next time!