Pure by Terra Elan McVoy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a story about 5 high school girls in the south who have made a pledge not to have sex until marriage. They’ve made this pledge publicly, and they wear “purity rings” so, everywhere they go, anyone they meet can know this about them. The fact of their shared conviction is part of what holds them together as friends. The book follows one of the girls, Tabitha, as events and choices and changing ways of thinking stretch – and maybe break – their friendships.
This book is a great example of the ‘give it a few more pages’ philosophy. I often tell my students and my patrons, ‘hey, if it doesn’t grab you, read something else’ but I also say ‘maybe give it a few more pages and see what you think then.’
I had heard of purity rings, but only in the news and in creepy facebook posts showing fathers on one knee giving too-young daughters these too-expensive pieces of jewelry at very grown up looking restaurant ‘dates.’ (Sorry, my bias is showing, and I find the way this is presented in the media very creepy. Maybe the reality is lovely and charming — I wouldn’t know.)
Anyway, in the first few chapters, I just couldn’t relate to Tabitha or Morgan or their parents. But I wanted to like this book, and I knew the kid was going to read it, so I stuck with it. And, you know what? I started to like these girls. Over the course of the story they all became more fleshed out, more interesting, and more thoughtful. They wanted to be understood. They wanted their friendships to survive. They wanted to live by their convictions but the black and white decision-making of 12 is not the same as the nuanced decision-making of the later teen years.
McVoy does a great job of depicting the running monolog that is a teenager’s life. Some reviewers have written negatively about this but hey — have you looked at your sophomore year diary lately? This he said she said I wonder what she’s thinking is likely what it looks like. There were a few places where the vocabulary seemed too sophisticated for a girl who didn’t care a whole lot about school, but I won’t quibble.
A good thing about this book, of course, is the conversation it’s already opened up in our household. Who gets to decide when a girl is ready for what? What factors go in to making that decision? How do we maintain close friendships with people whose core beliefs are different from our own? Who has the right to know what decisions you have made about your own life and body?
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