Customer Reviews: Purity
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on April 28, 2012
My Thoughts
This is a book that, while it does deliver on its promise of contemporary YA goodness, also leaves the reader with some pretty savory food for thought.
Purity is the story of a father and daughter set adrift on a sea of loss, miscommunication, and misunderstanding of themselves and each other, after the loss of the wife and mother that anchored them.

Let me be the first to say that though this book spends a great deal of its time on the topic of Shelby's "deflowering", and her aversion to the "purity ball"; I am fully confident that it was not the author's intention to glorify teen sex or disparage the message of the abstinence movement in any way. These happenings within this read have more to do with being points of "discovery" for Shelby; about her power to plot her own course to happiness and love rather than having those things dictated to her by the predefined parameters of a promise or expectation.

Thank you Jackson for writing a story full of truly "good guys". It is so nice to see an exception to the "one prince per story rule." The princes in this book: Shelby's dad, Jeffrey, and Jonas. This book really explores the male/female relationship in three of its most important aspects. The relationship that girls have with the men in their lives as: fathers (Shelby's dad), sexual partners (Jeffery), and friends/love interests (Jonas). What this book does in true "girl power" fashion, is to show young women that they have the power to actively choose their role in these relationships and not simply let the male take the lead.

As the mother of three daughters, I will be the first to make this book required reading in my home.
It is my hope that this book will serve as a bridge between parents and the teens that we are trying so hard to love, guide, and UNDERSTAND.
*This review is a cross-post from my blog*
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on May 1, 2012
I rarely do reviews, but I had to write one for this book. I am a fan of Jackson Pearce and have read all her work. Purity has become my favorite out of all four of her books - I am a huge contemporary novel fan more than supernatural, which could the reason why it's my favorite. It's witty. It's charming. But most importantly it's real. I found myself relating to the main character, Shelby, in so many ways and the pressure she placed on her self to lose her virginity. It's very tasteful, and there is nothing in there that anyone under the age of 15 shouldn't be allowed to read.

The book isn't that big, and I was able to finish the book within a day. I love the relationship between Shelby and her friends, but I especially love the relationship, or lack of, between her and her father. Throughout the novel it's painful to see how they lack a relationship and what the purity ball ends up meaning for the both of them at the end. It's a story of growth, love, understanding, and most importantly to me, it's a story of searching who you really are.

I highly recommend the book. And I know some people may be turned off because of the mention of God or Shelby's view of religion, but she is a character in a book and characters have different views just like real people do. And that is why I love this book. Pearce has the ability to create strong characters with flaws that resemble real people. They're not perfect, their not flat, but intricate with several elements contributing to their existence... even if they are fictional.

And if anything else, you should just get the book for how beautiful the cover is!
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For Shelby, the most important thing in her life is keeping the promises she made her mother before she died: listen to her father, live without restraint, and love as much as possible. The loving is something she's working on, and she's got the living without restraint part covered. But the most important one, listening to her father, is tough. And it only gets harder when her dad volunteers to organize the church's Princess Ball. At the ball, daughters attend with their fathers and pledge to stay pure in all aspects of their lives...and Shelby isn't sure if she can make that pledge. So instead she plans to nullify it by formulating a plan to lose her virginity before the ball--which is just about a month away.

Jackson Pearce's Purity will hook many readers with its straightforward, entertaining, and slightly sarcastic voice. Shelby is an engaging and likable narrator. She's had a hard time dealing with her mother's death, and she doesn't know how to interact with her father beyond keeping her promise to listen to him. But she's never had to confront these issues until her father's involvement with the Princess Ball force her to really think about her values and what she wants out of life. Shelby's questions with religion are brought up, but her search for answers doesn't have much depth and brings about only a few small steps. Instead she focuses her attention on her plan to lose her virginity with the support of her eccentric friend Ruby and the reluctant help of her long-time friend Jonas. She doesn't really make any major breakthroughs until she finally confronts her father and is able to be truthful with him. Their relationship is far from ideal by the time the book ends, but there is hope that they can build a better relationship. However, this connection is only made after Shelby's awkward and emotionless sexual encounter with someone she hardly knows, despite the fact that there are people in her life trying to tell her she doesn't need to have sex in order to keep her promise to her mother. Pearce's writing is solid and her characterization is, for the most part, enjoyable. She deals with a lot of pertinent issues and topics that concern many teens, but the execution of this story and its questionable conclusions will probably make it hard for readers to connect with Shelby or her struggles.
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on April 27, 2012
PURITY, Jackson Pearce's first contemporary novel, is about young Shelby whose ailing mother asks her to keep three promises as she goes throughout her life. But, when one of those promises is suddenly too bizarre to keep, when her Father decides to volunteer her for a Purity ball, Shelby is on a race to quickly discover a loophole that will still have her keep true to her promise before the time comes to vow her purity.

I was thoroughly entertained while reading Purity. When there wasn't a serious moment happening things were usually sweet and, frequently, humorous. (I don't suppose buying condoms is the most glamorous things to do.) Shelby was a different character. Having lost her mother so early on in life, she is faced with struggling to get to know her father more, and re-discovering the faith, in many things, that she strayed away from or lost over the years. This novel is about more than a girl wanting to lose her virginity. It is about love and learning to grow as a person and get over things and ideas that are keeping you back to moving forward in your life.

To some, it may not be their cup of tea, but I couldn't stop myself from chugging this one back. Being a fan of Jackson Pearce, I was interested to see how she would succeed in the contemporary genre, since her past novels had supernatural/urban fantasy elements, and am glad to say that Purity did not disappoint. This novel was fun, sweet, sad when it had to be, and serious. I would definitely recommend it!

I would like to extend my greatest thanks to Faye of Little, Brown/Hachette for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon June 21, 2012
5 years, 352 days ago Shelby made a promise to her dying mother. She swore to: 1) always love and listen to her father, 2) love as much as possible, and 3) always live without restraint. After her mother passed away, Shelby's friend, Jonas, came up with a Life List to help her keep Promise Three. At the time we meet Shelby for the first time, her list has more than four hundred items on it, including thins like "jump off the Lake Jocassee trestle like mom did in high school", "put flowers on every grave in a cemetery", and "learn all eighty-eight constellations". So far, Shelby managed to cross out one hundred and three items from the list. In other words, she's been working really hard to keep the promise she gave her mom, and really live her life to the fullest.

Everything seemes to be going great until Shelby's dad decides for them to attend the annual Princess Ball, a father-daughter dance and a Ridgebrook tradition. A dance, that ends with a ceremony during which all the fathers and daughters recite vows. The fathers vow "to be strong, responsible man of integrity and to play a central role in their daughter's lives", and the daughters pledge "to look up to their fathers for guidance and to live whole, pure lives." While Shelby doesn't exactly plan to do drugs or drink large amounts of alcohol, she certainly does not want to put on an invisible chastity belt and commit to life without sex, either. At the same time, she can't disobey her dad's wish - that would be breaking Promise One. She can't vow to stay pure until marriage either, because then she'd be breaking Promise Three - to seize the day and live without restraints. The only way out of this situation seems to be through exploiting a loophole. See, Shelby figured that you can't technically vow not to do something you already did in the past. And so with only five weeks before the dance, Shelby decides to lose her virginity before the vow could force her into a permanent celibate. But is that really what her mother wanted for her? Is that really what her father needs? And does anyone else have the right to decide these things for her?

Pearce approaches the subject of purity and teenage sex with surprising lightness and humour, weaving a story that is utterly delightful and entertaining, while being meaningful and thought-provoking at the same time. This book carries a clear message, and quite an important one at that. It tackles issues such as loss of a family member, sexuality, freedom of choices, religion, and honesty. At the same time, though, it neatly avoids coming across as preachy or too opinionated. The loss of her mother affected Shelby immensely, shifting her whole world and causing her to question her faith. That inevitably lead to her many reflections about God, from talking about her feelings (disappointment, anger, bitterness, confusion), to questioning his existence. While I'm not usually very fond of books with clear religious undertones, I can't say that they bothered me in Purity. I suppose it's because this book was so perfectly balanced, not too serious and not too silly, offering a nearly perfect blend of drama, philosophical reflections and humour. Like I said before, preachiness is always my main concern when it comes to books with religious elements. Thankfully, Purity was free of it, and that made me appreciate it even more.

I loved the characters. Jonas, Ruby, and Shelby made a fabulous trio. I loved seeing them interact with each other - they completed one another in every possible way and had a wonderfully positive attitude towards life and other people. Their friendship was strong and sweet. Jonas and Ruby where always there for Shelby, and they knew her better than she knew herself.

Jackson Pearce did a really great job portraying the awkward relationship between Shelby and her father. Shelby's dad really did not know what to do with his teenage daughter. He was utterly clueless. And, being the exact opposite of an easy-going, turn-everything-into-a-joke dad, he struggled a lot with express his feelings. His shyness and all-too apparent lack of knowledge about the needs of teenage girls was quite heart-warming and I often laughed at the solutions and ideas he would come up with.

I was very pleased with how much the main protagonist grew as a person. As Shelby was trying desperately to find a way to lose her virginity, she slowly began to realize that what her mother asked of her, and what was supposed to help her live her life to the fullest, was in fact holding her back and dictating her every move. She took the promises she made to her mom and turned them into rules, and she followed those rules religiously. She tried so hard to keep her promises, that she failed to fully understand what her mother really wanted of her, and that is to be happy and enjoy her life. Follow her heart, stay true to her dreams, and just.. live! The moment she realizes that, is the moment when she finally starts living.

Overall, Purity is a clever and funny story, but also one that makes you stop and think, as it raises some great, relevant questions. These are the kind of questions that I myself often wanted to ask as a teen, but was either too scared, too ashamed, or simply didn't know who to direct them at. Inevitably, some people will find this book too provocative, others might find the whole racing to lose one's virginity to be nothing short of scandalous (it is a YA novel we're talking about here after all). I myself found it quite refreshing and intriguing, especially its straight forwardness, honesty, and thoughtfulness. It's a wonderful, eye-opening read, I highly recommend it!
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on August 25, 2012
I am a huge Jackson Pearce fan, HUGE! I've read all of her books and recommended them to many people (and then I track them down like a wolf when they aren't returned). So when I found out Purity would be released I pre-ordered and waiting very impatiently. When the book arrived I jumped into reading it and ... quickly ... realized ... it was not good. In fact, I actually closed the book and looked at the cover again. Could this really be a JP novel? I trudged through the book, finished it and immediately put in the "return for trade" pile. I wanted to love this book, I really did. But to me, it felt like a book that was written quickly and in order to fulfill a contractual requirement. The plot was good it was just so under-developed. The characters were just OK - I didn't feel their voices like I did with all of her previous books. I can't put my finger on what exactly went wrong with this story but it definitely didn't work...for me. She is such a wonderful storyteller; so bummed this one didn't work out.
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on June 19, 2012
I very much enjoyed Sisters Red, as I appreciated the modern take on a fairy tale. I read some reviews after I finished that mentioned some themes I may not have liked, but I didn't pick up on them as a reader, so I didn't let them affect my opinion.

When I enjoy a book by an author, I naturally look forward to future books by them. Hence my reason for picking up Purity.

Purity is not a fairy tale retelling, but it is a contemporary, so it's in my favorite genre. Unfortunately, I did not like this book at all.

Shelby lives with her dad because her mother passed away when she was younger. Her dad has become in charge of the Princess Ball, where fathers and daughters go to show their commitment and love for each other - and Shelby's dad assumes he and Shelby will be attending, since he is the organizer. Shelby has a problem with this because she has to give a purity vow at the end of the ball, pledging to stay away from alcohol (until she is 21), sex (until she is married), and drugs. Because of the promises she made to her mother before she died, any exchange of words she has with her father (such as this purity vow) she has to follow to the letter, so going through this ceremony will effectively make her a virgin until she is married, and she has a problem with that.

I understand Shelby's point of view - not wanting to vow to something she doesn't totally believe in. But instead of talking to her father about it (granted, they don't have a great relationship, but she doesn't even try), her and her friends decide that if she has sex before the ball the vow is void. So that's what she tries to do.

If the story had stayed with that theme, I probably wouldn't have liked it a whole lot, but it would have been okay. I didn't find a lot of depth in the decisions Shelby was making as she tried to hook up with boys, and I didn't connect with her as a character. The ending is quite predictable. However, that was not my biggest problem with this book.

Nowhere in the synopsis of Purity is religion mentioned. Not at all. And what I found this book to be most about is Shelby discrediting God and her religious beliefs - wondering how anyone could believe when He lets bad things happen, how she could have wasted time praying to a God that doesn't care.

I am all about reading about religious differences in books. I've read books of all types, including ones who question their beliefs - but I have never been so offended at the way it is approached as I was while reading Purity.

And I know this will bother some people more than others, depending on each person's individual religious beliefs. But it is a plot thread that is impossible for me to ignore because of the way it was done. I fully believe I would have felt this way if it had discredited a religion I do not associate with as well.

If you would like the suggestion of a book where a character questions her religion that is done well, please check out Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker. Or Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr.
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on June 21, 2012
I'm a big fan of Jackson Pearce. I loved her first three books, As You Wish, Sisters Red, and Sweetly, and I eagerly await the third in her Fairy Tale Retellings series, Fathomless. She does modern-day retellings so well (As You Wish is not a fairy tale retelling, but is is a modern take on an old story), so I was surprised last year when I heard about the soon-to-be-released Purity. Purity falls within the Contemporary genre and is as far from the world of magic and fairy tales as you can get. To be honest, I wasn't sure I would like it; I thought I would have pre-conceived expectations, based on Jackson's prior books, and that this would not be able to measure up (disclaimer: I'm usually not a big fan of Contemporary YA). I should have given Jackson more credit... Not only did she write a really great Contemporary that I enjoyed immensely, but I think it may be my favorite of her books so far. Purity was funny, touching, and not at all what I expected. Why?

If you've read anything by Jackson Pearce, you know that she does characters really well. I always develop strong attachments to them right away, and the characters in this book were no different. The protagonist, Shelby, was as real as a fictional teenager could be. I read so many books about teens and they are most often portrayed as stereotypical angsty, rebellious, hormonal, know-it-all, brats. Yes, they are stereotyped that way for a reason, and yes, Shelby definitely showed some of these traits from time to time, but she was SO much more than that, and not just because of her circumstances. She was a good kid who was learning the ropes as she went, all while having this promise to her dead mother that she had to live up to. I liked Shelby a lot. I also liked her two best friends, Jonas and Ruby. Jonas had the kind of wit that I love in a boy, and the whole time I was reading the book, I was thinking, "Why aren't you looking to him to be 'the ONE'?". Then there's Ruby; without Ruby I think Shelby would have had a very difficult time having any fun. Ruby was the crazy-maker, and her role in Shelby's life was absolutely vital. As for the supporting characters, they were great as well. Shelby's dad was spot on I felt bad for him in so many ways. I was raised by my dad after my parents divorced, and let me tell you, I feel for ANY dad raising a teenage girl alone; there is no way to relate to her on any level. I also loved (and hated) Shelby's aunt. What a character! Saying she was merely colorful would be like saying Pucci print is colorful. I could go on and on about the characters, but I think you get the idea...

Now for the story... When I first read the synopsis, I was thinking, "What? Is cancer the new vampire?". Not to sound insensitive, but there are a lot of YA books recently that involve people dying of cancer (like maybe there needs to be a new genre called "Cancer"). This book isn't a "Cancer" book though. It's a book about a girl trying to honor her dying mother's last request under impossible circumstances. Cancer plays a small role, but this is a coming-of-age book on every level, and it is wonderfully done. It's also a coming-to-terms-with-God-and-religion book, and that is something I didn't expect, but I felt like Shelby asked the right questions, even if she didn't always get answers. Jackson's trademark humor (she is one of the funniest YA authors out there) is everywhere in this book, but there is also a tender sensitivity there, providing a beautiful balance. I laughed, cried, yelled at the characters, and before I knew it, the book was over, and I felt like I had just finished a great meal. When a book makes he run the emotional gamut, ending in a deep sense of satisfaction, I know it was a great book.

Overall, I would say that if you are a YA Contemporary fan, this is an absolute MUST READ. Run out and buy this book! That said, even if you aren't generally into the genre, read it anyway. Quality-wise, it is up there with the likes of John Green and Stephanie Perkins. It does not disappoint!

One more thing I have to mention for personal reasons... Jackson is from Atlanta, and I always love her Southern shout-outs, but there was one in this book that was especially close to my heart. Ruby worked at The Flying Biscuit!!! The Flying Biscuit is very real and there is one across from the hospital where I delivered my first baby *many* years ago. I spent a lot of time on bedrest there, and I ate their food, instead of hospital food, almost every day. Yum. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Memories!

My Rating: 5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: So, obviously this book involves sex. It's pretty much centered around a girl deciding to lose her virginity for none of the traditional reasons like love or lust or marriage. That being true, I am going to place this firmly in the "High School and up" category. Grades 9 and up. Ages 14+.
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on April 24, 2012
First Impressions: Jackson Pearce is one of my favorite authors, but I have to admit something. I was very nervous about this book. I am so use to her fairytale retelling stories and that is kind of what I have come to expect from her writing. Purity has nothing to do with fairy tales in any way. However, the synopsis intrigued me and since I knew that the author is a good writer, I wanted to give this a fair shot. So I shoved all of my thoughts of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella away and began this book with an open mind and crossed my fingers hoping not to be disappointed.

First 50 Pages: I'll admit that I don't think I have liked this book as much as Jackson's previous books, but Purity does have a lot of good in it. For starters, it is humorous. The narrator is so funny and she says certain things out of the blue that would just crack me up. I was a little bit put off by the religious stuff in this book at first, maybe because I didn't expect it, but at the heart of the story is a girl who is questioning not only about the existence of God, but about the type of person that she wants to be. Jackson handles it in a humorous manner though, so it never felt very heavy or took on a preachy tone. Her writing is wonderful as usual, but I did have a few issues with Purity.

Characters & Plot: If anyone asked me to go to a Purity/Princess Ball, I would probably laugh in their face. Not so much for poor Shelby, who is trying to keep the promises she made to her mother who has passes away. Three promises were made: Love as much as possible, listen to her father, and live without restraint. Shelby has found clever ways, or loopholes, of observing these promises to her late mother, but then her father drops a bomb on her.

Shelby's father wants her to attend a Purity/Princess Ball, an event where young girls promise to live a pure live. A pure life to them means no drugs, no breaking laws, no alcohol until they are of age, and no sex until marriage. The promises Shelby made to her mother are now conflicting. Does she break promise #2 or break promise #3? So Shelby tries to find a loophole so she doesn't technically break any of her promises.

This all seemed very silly to me, but there is a story hidden in there somewhere and there was a certain point in the book where I felt like everything came together. Shelby's decisions are sometimes irrational and careless, but she felt like she had to find a way to make good of her promises. The loophole that Shelby came up with wasn't the smartest choice for such a young girl, but I could see why she felt like she HAD to do IT. Literally!

The problem that I had with Purity, was that I think much of the conflict could have been resolved if Shelby would have just told her father from the beginning that she didn't want to make any vows of purity. The family dynamics were interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading, but I couldn't help but to feel bothered by the iron fist grasp of the promises Shelby made to her mother coupled with the unwillingness to come clean to her father. The ending of Purity I could see a mile away and it was rather predictable, but I did enjoy the way everything played out.

Final Thoughts: This book was definitely different from what I have come to expect from this author. While I enjoyed it, I don't think it is up to par with her other stories. If you are into more contemporary novels with a funny protagonist, I would recommend checking this one out, but don't expect any fairy tales.
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on April 15, 2012
helby upon her mother's death made three promises to her mom. Number one, listen and follow her father. Number two, love as much as possible and finally, live without restraint. Shelby for the first four years after her mom's death followed those rules to the letter. That is until one day her dad announces that he is going to be running the Princess Ball. This ball celebrates purity until a girl's wedding.

Shelby begins to question if she can obey her follow her in regards to waiting until marriage. That is where this story begins the journey. Jackson Pearce writes the characters in such a way that you can identify them. The story not only explores the issue of sex before marriage but also the relationship between a father and daughter. Another issue that I found myself exploring is whether falling a promise to the letter is more important than the following and understanding the essence of the promise.

Jackson Pearce writes the story in such a way that it opens the dialogue of questioning with these issues without leading the reader in any particular way but to ensure that the reader realizes that other girls are questioning these same issues. It was a short read and was very enjoyable. I companion book that also address the issue of purity would be Terra McVoy's Pure. I think girls that like Sarah Dessen will enjoy this book.

Note: I received an advanced copy from the publisher, Little Brown.
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