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.
This is going to be a difficult review to write. Not because I hated the book but because I didn’t agree with it. So while from an objective point of view, I can see where Shelby is coming from, I cannot quite bring myself to agree with her actions in any way or form.
I find female sexuality very interesting. This might be because I’m a female myself, hur, but also because being Muslim, I’ve had people automatically assume that things such as sex etc not something I would care to discuss or talk about because…you know, being pure according to religion etc etc. My personal feelings aside, Pearce’s novel disturbed me very early because of the slut-shaming. If you are not aware of what the term means, according to one feminist blog, slut-shaming/slut-bashing is a feminist term used to describe incidents where women are judged based on their sexual life/actions. In Purity, this is somewhat addressed and I won’t give it away except to say that I wish Shelby had taken more time to think about her gradual realization of her stereotyping but in the end, I’m glad she does think about it. I’m glad the issue was addressed because I don’t think it right to judge a girl by the number of sex partners she has or how much she likes sex.
The entire premise rests on Shelby’s inability to deviate from the promises she made to her mother. She cannot disobey her father in any way but she has to live life in an unrestrained manner. Therefore she decides to lose her virginity before she has to promise her dad that she won’t lose it. I suspect the novel would have worked better had Shelby’s father been characterized differently than he was. While their eventual bonding is heartwarming, I cannot understand why it took Shelby the amount of time it did to actually finally talk to her father. He just seems like a sad man trying to cope with the death of his wife and the rearing of his teenage daughter.
The romance in this is ridiculous and Shelby’s ultimate decision is just as ridiculous. There are funny moments in the novel and I particularly liked how Pearce included Ruby’s skin condition into the narrative. That was well done. So considering that I am so ambivalent about the novel, I don’t think I can, in good conscience, give you an opinion either ways. If sex is something light to you, something that is not a big deal (and I’m not being judgmental here), you might like this better than I do. But if it means a lot more to you than that, you might have the same trouble with it that I do. Either ways, decide for yourself.