About the book:
A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.
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.
While I'm giving this story three stars which means, "I liked it," I can honestly say there were some things I liked and some that I really didn't appreciate or like very much. A true rating is probably closer to 2.5 stars because I disliked more than I liked, but I did finish the book so I wasn't bored out of my mind, which is a good thing.
At any rate, what I liked about the book was that in some ways it did reflect the mindset of a teen who just wanted to get that virginity issue out of the way, but thankfully the young girl realized (to an extent) that it was a misguided goal. I also liked that some of the dialog was realistic. Though crass at times and a bit harsher than I'd like to see in a teen book, it was often pretty typical. The theme about Shelby missing her mother was well done and the reality of not knowing her father and wishing she knew him better was also well done. I did find the story pretty readable once I got past the clumsiness of the premise.
Things I didn't like ran the gamut. First of all, the premise was a bit cheesy. I wasn't buying the "three promises" thing even though the author tried very hard to make a case for it. I didn't like the fact that they used the Lord's name in vain a number of times. The story would not have been hurt if those words had been deleted, though the young man Ben resembling Jesus and then saying "Oh, God" was funny in a twisted sort of way.
I really didn't like how the author made the character so hostile to Christianity, though some points were valid regarding her not understanding and her anger toward God. The church scenes and the pastor I had mixed feelings about. It was almost like Shelby wanted a reason to have faith, and her reasoning sounded very teen-like, so that worked for me. I also liked Shelby's opinion that teens should be honest with the people they love. She says teens should not pretend something that isn't true and go through with a ceremony if they didn't really mean it.
One thing that disturbed me was the fact that while her attitude about getting rid of her virginity was something I've seen before when I was a teen, so it was realistically shown, it was more the fact that she ended up treating sex so casually and how she wasn't sad that she'd given it away to a guy she didn't even like was a bit difficult for me to digest. Yes, the scene felt realistic. Her heart wasn't in it and thus "getting laid" wasn't that big of a deal because for her it was a means to an end. Most of the time when girls do agree to have sex for the first time it's because they have feelings for the guy. I guess it bugged me that in her heart she treated her purity like it didn't mean much. I would have liked to see her realizing that she should have waited for someone she loved. Or had some regrets and not told people she was "fine" afterward. If the author intended to show some remorse, I wasn't feeling it.
Trying to think back to how my mindset was at sixteen and comparing it to this book, I would walk away with one conclusion... having sex is not a big deal if you don't have feelings for the person. Call me crazy, but as a teen that would have stuck out for me at the time and probably encouraged me to do it to "get the virginity issue out of the way." Maybe that was just the way my mind worked and others wouldn't see it that way, but it seemed to be the message being promoted. While the author tried to redeem the story at the end with the "love" theme trumping everything else, it fell a bit flat for me. Last, after all of that waiting for her to realize who she really loved, I would have liked to see Shelby and Jonas kiss at least once. That was a bit of a letdown. I didn't feel encouraged at the end of the book because the character's arc wasn't strong enough to make me satisfied at the end.
Purity was published by Little Brown & Company and released April 24th, 2012. I snagged an ARC of this book at Romantic Times in Chicago in April on the freebie table, so I was not given this book to review by anyone for promotional purposes. I was intrigued by the whole purity theme and the Princess Ball, etc., so I picked it up off the freebie table and took a copy home with me.