This one's going to stay with me for a very long time. I already know this because the images from Pure by Julianna Baggott are seared into my mind--wildly disturbing, absorbing, imaginative, freakish. This is a dystopian unlike most others out there, and I'm hooked.
Pure is the story of almost sixteen year old Pressia, who has lived for the nine years since the world ending/changing Detonations with her grandfather in a small barbershop in what's left of America. Those who survived the Detonations were fused to whatever they happened to be touching at the moment the bright light exploded, so Pressia's right hand is now the head of the baby doll she was holding and her grandfather has a small fan stuck in his throat. The two have been foraging for their lives, knowing that when Pressia turns sixteen, the dreaded OSR soldiers will be coming for her (for whatever purpose they deem). It is this knowledge that leads Pressia to Bradwell, a fellow survivor with birds actually living in his back, and ultimately to El Capitan, an OSR officer whose younger brother has fused to him. Meanwhile, there are a select few who have survived unscathed--Pure--in the Dome; Partridge, son of one of the leaders, feels certain his mother survived the Detonations outside the Dome and he becomes determined to find her, even if it means leaving his sanctuary. All of these lives intersect, combine, and impact one another throughout the most vivid landscape and people I've read about in quite a while.
Pure is not without its faults; its present tense writing annoys and the improbability of people fusing to items as varied as animals, metal, plastic, and land kept nagging me. Still, if you put aside the illogic, this is a story whose characters are truly the stars. Pressia is a flawed heroine whose loyalty ties her to people and places that may not be the best, but she is a determined, tortured soul. Partridge's escape and his focus on finding his family leads to layers of backstory being exposed, and while most of it is predictable, it's still exciting and fresh. El Capitan and Helmud are going to haunt me for a long time, with their shared body being both burden and sacrifice. In fact, there's not one character anywhere to be found whom I will be able to forget: Illia, the wife covered in a full body skin stocking, the Dust which lies in wait to capture unsuspecting humans for consumption, the Good Mother who demands a tall sacrifice from the Pure Partridge. All so vividly writtenly that my mind's eye has them literally fused inside my head.
This is a unique story and one I can recommend to those who like dystopias, but don't go into it thinking there is going to be a huge romance or an easy path. By the time this trilogy is done, I wouldn't be surprised to see Pressia and her friends as leaders of the Dome or as dead legacies. It could definitely go either way, but I know it's going to be interesting. This one's actually a strong 4.5 stars, marked down only because of the totally unnecessary use of present-tense. I'm going to be waiting anxiously for the next in the series.