Publication: April 2012 from Little, Brown
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it
Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby’s father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives – in other words, no “bad behavior,” no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.
Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision – to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.
I went into Purity by Jackson Pearce knowing exactly nothing about Princess Balls except what the back synopsis told me. Though it doesn’t say so, just by the fact that at the end of the ball the participants (well, the daughters at least) vow to live pure lives, I figured it would have something to do with religion so I wasn’t surprised by any aspects of the book, at least.
While Purity is definitely a story about a girl trying to lose her virginity before she has to vow to stay pure (a nice little loophole. If she’s already had sex, she doesn’t have to worry about the vow), it’s also about how she learns to live with the promises she made her mother before her mother died, gets to know her father and come to terms with how she feels about God and her faith. Shelby is a fairly confused teenager, even if she doesn’t think so. She’s trying to live by three promises that she made her mother, and yet the promises begin to conflict with each other and Shelby is left trying to figure out a way to stay true to both Promise 1 and 3 – meanwhile sort of forgetting to fully listen to Promise 2. One thing I loved about this book is Shelby’s friends. Ruby and Jonas support her fully, even when her decisions may not be the best, and they stick around for the sometimes hard life lessons learned at the end of the wacky plan.
I enjoyed the plot and the changes that Shelby goes through as her quest to lose her virginity and partaking in the Princess Ball brings her closer to her father, her friends and a realization that Promise 2 is just as important as Promises 1 and 3. She does quite a bit of growing up over the course of the story. I would have liked to see more between Shelby and her father. I know the plot was mainly about Shelby’s growth and path to really understanding the Promises she made her mom, but there was so much potential to have really good dialogue and interactions between father and daughter. What is there is wonderful, and Shelby’s dad definitely has an impact on her decisions, whether she really realizes it or not.
Purity is a story about family, growing up and finding yourself and what you really want in life. I think many will be able to relate to Shelby’s journey, even if they’ve never set out to have sex on purpose in order to get out of a purity vow!
ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!