Thursday, October 01, 2009

Review: Pure

Terra Elan McVoy
2009; Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster); 978-1-4169-7872-5 (hardcover)

Summary: They're very special, the rings that Tabitha, her best friend Morgan, and their three friends wear. The ring represents the promise made by each girl to herself, to her friends, and to God. Because true love waits. Bu when Cara decides not to wait, it splits the friends apart. Cara's best friend Naeomi turns her back on Cara, while Morgan shuns Cara. Priah follows Morgan's lead, and Tabitha is stuck in the middle. Tabitha doesn't know what to think. Should she ignore Cara for breaking her promise? Or is Morgan being too harsh in ostracizing their friend? Tabitha will have to find the right answer for herself, because with a new boyfriend, friend drama, and problems with her parents, she's got a lot of opinions on just what purity means. And as she figures out what that word means to her, Tabitha will discover more about her faith and herself.

Two Things to Know About Pure

#1: No two teens live the same life.

With all the press about racy young adult literature, it was refreshing to read a novel that had a kind of normalcy about it. Even if it's not a life lived by many teens, the more mainstream lifestyle of Pure does exist. Every teen does not comes from a broken home and lack a support system. By exploring a world with school, after-school activities, church, family time, and talking with friends, the reader gets to see what happens when this structured, black and white world is exposed to shades of gray. Some characters would rather stay in the black and white world; Tabitha, on the other hand, can't help seeing the gray. Writing about this dichotomy, Terra Elan McVoy not only creates a compelling story but provides a bit of balance to the world of YA literature.

#2: Teens question many things.

The events that create a wedge between Tabitha's friends opens her to a greater exploration of her faith. Tabitha is already unique, as her parents are not religious. While they first encouraged her to explore religion, they have become uninterested and even a bit disdainful of religion. While Tabitha has maintained and grown her faith, this doesn't mean she's able to know whether Cara's actions are wrong or right. It's confusing for Tabitha as she realizes that there are no clear answers. Her spiritual search isn't just about her friends, either. As she starts dating Jake, Tabitha discovers the power of chemistry and hormones, and all the temptations there are when you love someone. But through it all, Tabitha wants to live up to all the ideals of her faith--to be both compassionate and pure.

A novel that grounds questions about teen sexuality in religious beliefs could easily have become preachy or didactic. It is a great compliment to McVoy that Pure is neither of these things. Instead, it is a thought-provoking novel with a mix of personalities, each character espousing a different interpretation of the beliefs of what appears to be evangelical Christianity. It would have been easy to show Tabitha losing her faith over the course of the novel; instead, we see how strong faith can be, and the amount of comfort that Tabitha draws from it. Finding a novel that is both spiritual and well-written is a difficult task; happily this novel helps to fill that niche. For teens who are looking for novels about abstinence and want something more serious than Kristen Tracy's Lost It, recommend Pure.

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