by Julianna Baggott
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing / Hachette
Release Date: Feb 8, 2012
Source: Review copy
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.
Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash…
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.
I will get right down to it. This book was creepy, disturbing, and frankly disrupted my ability to have a good night sleep for nights, but boy was it ever worth it. I liked it! This book reminded me of how I felt when I read the first book of the Hunger Games. The desperation, the despair, the disconsolation I felt for the characters in this book was so overwhelming at times that I often had to put the book down and collect my thoughts. In the midst of all of that though, I felt like this one one of the best books I’ve read in 2012 so far. So well told, and felt so real, that it flat out scared me. Beware this book is not for the faint of heart.
Pressia is almost 16 years old, the age age where all survivors of the Detonations that ended the world as we know it, must report and serve the OSR (the corrupt government that has taken over) either as a soldier or as a live target. She lives with her grandfather in an old barber shop, whose roof was half ripped off by the detonations, scared for what awaits her when she turns 16. Does she run away now or does she accept her bleak future. You see, Pressia is not an ordinary girl. No one in this new, wretched world, is ordinary. Everyone has been affected in some way by the Detonations, an explosion of nuclear proportions that either killed you instantly, or if you are a survivor like Pressia, fused you permanently to whatever was near you at the time. Pressia herself is burned and fused. Half her face is burned and one of her hands is no longer a hand, now permanently fused to the doll she was carrying when the Detonations went off. The doll has become her hand, and the only thing left of her childhood.
This book is full of fascinating characters, each with their own fascinating stories of survival to tell. A boy whose back became fused with birds, wings fluttering and beaks encrusted in his skin. The grandfather fused with a fan, lodged in his throat. The groupies, or a large group of people who became fused together, into one large body with many arms and legs. And the Dusts, creatures once human who have become fused with the dirt and grab people from the ground and eat them alive. Wretches is what they are called in the Dome, a species that is no longer purely human, all victims of mutations, fusings with other species and objects. Even newborn babies are born mutated or deformed, because the mutations are so deep within their DNA, that not even their offspring can escape their fate. All of this a far cry, in Pressia’s mind, from the world inside the dome. A benevolent presence in the horizon, a haven where she knows people live, free of the effects of the detonations, and that one day she hopes will come back down to the ravaged earth and help the survivors.
Partridge is 2 years older than Pressia and lives in the dome, aware that he is fortunate to be there, knowing what happened on the outside. The Detonations is a known fact, but no one in the dome has suffered the effects. Inside this dome, artificial air flows, people’s genetic material is coded to be faster, stronger, smarter. Behavior is modified if someone becomes trouble or asks too many questions. Everyone must act like they love and are thankful for being there, and no one is allowed to question authority. It is the epitome of a perfect society, but without any freedoms. People like him are called Pures outside of the dome, because they have no marks, no burns on their bodies, their genes are not mutated or fused with animals or objects. Pure as the human race once was before the Detonations.
Something happens that pushes Partidge to escape out of the Dome, and into the outside world, where he hasn’t been since he was a child. Once his path crosses with Pressia, they are both taken on a wild ride where they both realize their lives, their histories, are more interconnected than they realize, and that the truth is bigger than either of them could have ever imaged. Pressia, Partridge, and the companions that join them along the way, must overcome every obstacle this new cruel and hopeless world throws at them. What is there to live and fight for when the only things they have ever known prove to be different? I for one, can’t wait to find out in book 2 how this story unravels. A must-read for fans of Dystopian fiction.