Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review: Pure by Terra Elan McVoy

Tabitha and her group of friends all wear purity rings that symbolize their pledge to remain virgins until they are married. When one of the girls, Cara, admits to having sex with her boyfriend, loyalties are tested and Tabitha must reexamine her friendships.

So, I really like that the subject of purity rings (and faith in general) is dealt with earnestly and in a balanced way that I can see resonating with many teens. It’s something that has the potential to generate a healthy discussion about values, being true to yourself, and respecting your body. But as provocative as it is sometimes (such as a scene where Tabitha discovers that Jesus never specifically forbids premarital sex - or how about that cover?), it can also be pretty bland.

Maybe part of my indifference to the “drama” of the plot is due to the fact that I’m married and the days of purity rings are far behind me. Had I read it at 17 it would have been more relevant. Church youth group was a big part of my high school social life, so the ”True Love Waits” campaign is nothing new to me. In fact, one year, everyone was "strongly encouraged" to fill out purity pledges and lay them at the altar during the church service. We all did. Not necessarily because everyone really meant it. It was just that no one dared to disappoint parents and be branded a whore by judgmental old ladies.

It was this kind of “positive” peer pressure that permeated PURE. The five friends all have different motivations for wearing the rings. Morgan seems to be the most convicted that it is God’s will for her life, but she also enjoys the attention it brings her. Naeomi states at one point that she wears it mainly as a promise to herself, not so much for God’s sake. Tabitha got one because Morgan got one. And they all found it easy to pledge chastity before boys were in the picture.

Since the book is written in first person from Tabitha’s POV, we see just how conflicted she is about the Cara/sex situation. While the other girls are quick to judge and dump Cara, Tabitha wants to be a true friend. It’s noble, and even believable. But while reading, Tabitha’s perfection started to irk me a bit. She’s sensible and kind through it all, and even her small slip-ups are quickly forgiven because she deals with them so well. I would have expected a book about “betrayals, confessions and revenge” to be a bit … messier.

PURE will be released in hardcover tomorrow.

35 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry it was a disappointment - the cover's great, though.

Lenore said...

I guess I'm just too old for it :)

Amee said...

Sounds interesting. I'm not sure if I'll seek it out, but if I ever happen upon it I might read it. :)

towerofbooks said...

Oh, I don't like it when protagonists are too perfect.

Jen said...

I also dont like when mistakes are glossed over. The cover is lovely though ^_^

Shalonda said...

I really have high hopes for this one.

I am going to the book release party in a little less than 2 weeks, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll enjoy it.

Insert Book Title Here said...

I love the cover but it doesn't sound like it's for me.

Great review!

Red lady-Bonnie said...

This sounds like a good book for teens. I heard an interview with the Jonas Bros. and they are all wearing Purity rings so this is interesting.

Lenore said...

Enjoy the release party Shalonda!

Bonnie, that's interesting that you bring that up. When Tabitha is telling her date about her ring, she mentions that not many boys wear the ring - it is mainly for girls in her social circle.

Sadako said...

Purity rings have always interested me/kind of creeped me out. Hmm, this books seems kind of interesting--too bad it had those flaws. I'll prolly wait till it's in paperback.

Lenore said...

Or ask your library to get it! I do think a book like this should be shelved.

cupcakewitch said...

I'm interested in this because when I was a teenager we didn't have purity rings! I never heard of them until I was an adult!

charley said...

I started to read this because I thought the cover was cute, but I have mixed feelings about purity rings, and I lost interest in the book pretty quickly.

Marie said...

Sounds like it would be better for a teen audience. Sigh! :-/

Christina Farley said...

I love the cover. It sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.

Linda J said...

Well, if YOU'RE too old for it, it's definitely not for your old auntie!

Sadako said...

Lenore--yeah, that's a good point. I often do the inter library loans for books I can't get as well. Yay for supporting your local library!

Amy said...

Despite the fact that I grew up in a strong evangelical environment with a pastor for a father no less, I never had a purity ring nor did we ever make pledges. And I was very tight with my youth group and youth leaders.

The cover of this??? Too funny!

Who is the publisher?

Amy said...

I'll know to avoid this one, nice review!
It sounds sort of predictable which I can't stand.
-amy

Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting, even though I'm a grownup. Thanks for the detailed review!

Elizabeth said...

I agree with you about protagonists who barely make mistakes; they bore me.

Also, the idea of teenagers having to publicly deposit "purity" pledges in front of their whole community kind of creeps me out. Then again, that might just reflect my own experience; the only thing I remember from adolescence involving "purity" was when purity tests were briefly all the rage.

Lenore said...

Amy - It's published by SimonPulse

Elizabeth - I'm all for waiting, but pledging in public isn't really the way to go (in my experience).

Anna Claire said...

The book looks interesting, but I'm with you Lenore about feeling a little old for the subject material.

Youth group was a big part of my life as a teen too, and our church did the True Love Waits thing and we signed the pledge cards..

The funny thing is that now a friend I grew up with in youth group is our church's new youth minister and she's choosing for the youth not to participate in the program because studies have shown that it has absolutely no effect on teen premarital sex. She's chosen (and I like this route better) to speak openly and candidly about the subject and to be non-judgemental.

Stephanie said...

This is something I'd definitely pick up if I saw it. The whole purity movement fascinates me. From what I can tell, it started after I got out of high school, or at least, it hadn't made it to my little corner of the world by then. It's not something I would've taken part of- I was so shy and socially inept that non-purity wasn't really an option, lol, but the movement itself fascinates me, in good and bad ways. Interesting, thanks for the review!

Lenore said...

AC - I'm not surprised in the least. At every youth conference, I had friends "rededicating" their virginity. As if there is such a thing.

Stephanie - We didn't have rings at least!

S. Krishna said...

Hmm...not sure about this one, though I love the cover! Thanks for the review.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Yeah, I grew up in the church too and had the same experience you had Lenore-the whole True Love Waits thing started when I was in middle school.
I work at a library in a pretty conservative area of the Bible belt, so I'd be interested in giving this one to a few of my readers and get their input on it. I'm interested in reading it, but I too might be a little too old for it now.

Elizabeth said...

Lenore: Exactly, it's the publicness of it that creeps me out. Like it's a whole community's business!

I think I have an overdeveloped sense of privacy (not that you'd know it from how I overshare on my blog), but the idea that teens' emotional lives are somehow available for everyone else to see and judge just because they're young always bothered me.

I think that's what rubs me the wrong way about a community expectation of public purity pledges. It has nothing to do with what teens pledge to themselves or each other.

It also just strikes me as a bit cynical. Like it's theoretically supposed to be a very personal pledge, but (like you write about in your review) the whole idea is trying to mobilize peer pressure.

Lenore said...

Green - I'd be interested in their reaction too.

Elizabeth - True. I have no problem with adults encouraging personal pledges. But then they should keep it personal. There's this whole accountability dimension to it too, but I think that works much better if you share your pledge with just a few trusted friends who can help keep you on the straight and narrow.

Zibilee said...

I don't think I'm the right audience for this book, but I do agree that it seems promise rings are more highly prized before boys enter the picture. I enjoyed your review, and I am sorry this one wasn't great.

Jodie said...

I've always watched shows where American kids get involved with purity schemes with interest. We just do not have the 'wait' movement as a big, visible scheme in the UK (which I have to say I'm glad about). I know there are some straight edge communities and a few embrace the purity pledge thing but it's just not something you hear about happening here. I wonder why it's become so big in America and less so over here.

Doret said...

I actually really liked Pure. I only picked it up because the author is local (GA), its normally not something I'd read. My co-workers were shocked. I liked Tabitha, I wouldn't call her perfect but a good girl. I thought it interesting that the other two friends dump Cara for different reasons. One thing I didn't understand was Tabitha's worry over telling a first date about her ring. Its a first date chill. And I didn't understand why Tabitha was worried that her parents wouldn't let her date a boy who didn't go to church when all they did was don't her off at church I must agree I do not care for the cover and it doesn't help that I am anti pink cover and I don't care for the cherry. I also agree with the positive peer pressure it always sounded like Tabitha only got a purity ring b/c of Morgan, like she was Miss Jones. (Was it just me or was Morgan's dad kind of creepy so pro purity ring.) Even so I never doubted Tabitha faith and I was very happy with Pure.

Lenore said...

Doret, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I actually found the whole church thing pretty surprising.

A) Tabitha attends her parents church on her own - no friends, no parents. Very mature, but strange.

B) Why didn't her friends get on her case about "not being yoked to an unbeliever"? I hear that phrase all the time in church circles.

C) Why was Cara not even allowed to attend youth group? It seems like her family would want her to attend church even more to atone for sins.

Doret said...

A. I was cool with Tabitha's parents not going to church. I just figured Tabitha came home one day and asked her parents what religion they were, and could they go to church. Her parents said yes, and probably figured she wouldn't want to go again b/c she is their child after all. But surprise Tabitha likes going to church.
B. Well we know why Cara didn't say anything. But I am surprised Morgan didn't. It seemed in line with her personlity if nothing else to simply take some of the air out of Tabitha.
C. This made perfect sense to me. Youth Group was fun, and Cara's parents wanted her to ask for forgiveness, with no frills/friends/fun.
I've enjoyed this and it proves that Pure would make a great book for book discussion. I'll being posting my review in the next few days.

Alea said...

I want pure... want to trade for something?!