While I’m always complaining about the baffling popularity of bleak and depressing books, I’m also always looking for some lightweight library paperbacks for the bus. (I understand big ugly hardcovers wear better, but I still need room for other stuff in my bag.) So I found myself picking up Pure by Julianna Baggott, the first in a series about the world after the Detonations. By which, of course, we mean a catastrophic nuclear bomb.
And it must have been one of those times low expectations pay off because I found myself getting sucked in and reading the sequels Fuse and Burn (also paperback! Win!)
On the day of the Detonations, a lucky few people get to hide out in the safety of the Dome, which has conveniently been prepared for the occasion, and everyone else ends up dead or horribly mutated. This is more the kind of radiation that turns Peter Parker into Spider-Man than our real radiation that just causes cancer. But, you know, bleak and dystopian, so instead of awesome superpowers you get a doll head fused onto your hand.
(I couldn’t quite shake images of the Simpsons movie when they take about the Dome. Spider Pig! Spider Pig! Does whatever a Spider Pig does! In these books there are probably literal spider-pig hybrids in the background somewhere.)
Anyway, Partridge, son of the unhinged genius who runs the Dome, decides to escape and search for his mother on the outside. Meanwhile, Pressia, the doll head girl, is on the run from the army. They meet up, have adventures, meet some people, discover secrets about their mysterious pasts, all that stuff. There are some coincidences that made me raise my eyebrows, but somehow didn’t really bother me. Like, if the world is destroyed, maybe they’re due for a bit of luck.
In the later books, Partridge helpfully demonstrates how, despite all those dystopian YA novels where it works out great, having a clueless teenager as your leader is perhaps not actually ideal. (Pro-tip for the apocalypse.) Oh, Partridge. Sometimes I kind of want to shake him, and yet, on the other hand, what were you expecting?
Now I can’t stop thinking about those spider-pigs. I may have creeped myself out a bit.