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.
This is a very heavy read. I originally picked it up because the synopsis was so intriguing, but it’s a lot different than I thought it was going to be. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something I think potential readers need to know. There are many scenes in this novel that are disturbing. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as heavy or twisted as it actually turned out to be, and I had to read it in installments due to its graphic nature and disconcerting images. And, no, it’s not sexual in the least bit—it’s the fusions and atrocious nature of the characters that I’m talking about here. I would not classify this as a young adult novel, though the main characters are in their teens. Instead, the amplified descriptions and atrocities that take place within this novel are, in my opinion, for a much older crowd. Even in my late twenties, I had difficulty stomaching much of this novel… yet I still really liked it (though I wouldn’t have minded if it was shorter).
Pressia is a survivor of the Detonations, a nuclear explosion that fused people to whatever they were close to—inanimate objects, animals, and even other humans (yes, it seems far- fetched that anyone would survive that, but the explanation as to how they survive makes sense with the storyline). Everyone who survived on the outside of the Dome is damaged in extremely horrible ways, yet this concept was just as intriguing as it was disturbing. Pressia’s hand is fused to a baby doll’s head, one of those dolls that is able to open and shut its eyes. It’s a chilling concept, and in the very beginning of the novel, I didn’t even realize what they were describing, but when I did, my visuals of the fusion brought me up short. This fusion, as well as those of the other many characters, reminded me of the first Toy Story movie in which Sid, the creepy kid next door, tortured his toys by fusing them together in unnatural ways. That was an extremely disturbing scene in a children’s movie, but it’s even ten times more troubling in this novel.
The way characters treat one another in this novel is also atrocious. Not only is it despicable how the Dome treats the survivors outside, or the Dome’s plans for them, but it’s also how the scarred, damaged people outside the Dome treat one another. In a society where all hope is lost and chaos rules the day, the graphic nature of this novel was hard to stomach on many an occasion. And yet… it’s a good story. I know it may not seem like that based on everything I’ve said so far, but it really is good. Is it for everyone? Definitely not, and I think potential readers of this novel need to know just how truly disconcerting much of it is, yet… I’ve never read anything quite like it, and while the concept of a Dome keeping the lucky in and the unlucky out isn’t a new idea by any means, where Baggott takes the reader is. This is a story about hope. About beating the odds and triumphing over evil. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it’s disturbing. But, it’s also a wonderful social commentary on where the world seems to be heading, where our priorities lie, and how detrimental our future might be if we don’t start changing it now. No, I don’t think there will be a nuclear explosion that will fuse us all together, but Baggott’s depiction of the character’s personalities within the novel, and the self-serving attitudes of many really make the reader think. And the disturbing nature of the novel? It’s needed to get the point across. Four stars.
Grand Central Publishers has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release tomorrow.