“Pure” is a novel by Rebbecca Ray, and it was a huge success for young girls and women that remember what it’s like to be a young girl. In Britain, where it was originally published by Penguin Books in 1998, it went by the name “A Certain Age”, but it was republished in America as “Pure”. The new title is ironic, I guess, because none of the characters are really pure or innocent. It’s real life… the real life of what it means to be 14 (for some anyway).
Rebbecca Ray dropped out of school, which was doing nothing for her intellectually, to write the novel. It was published when she was 18, and literary fame soon followed. Critics and readers loved the book because it was raw and vivid. Instead of a 30-something writer reliving the life of a teenager, Rebbecca Ray wrote about being a teenager when she was still a teen. The back cover reads:
An accomplished novel that made it’s young author a sensation, Pureis about fourteen—the age when you know everything, except when you don’t know anything. It’s about first love and the end of innocence, and realizing your family perhaps isn’t as happy or your parents as together as you thought. It’s about the cool friend for whom everything seems effortless, and the impossible embarrassing friend you’re nice to when your cool friends can’t see. It’s about the twenty-seven-year-old man who flirts with you when he sells your dad your overpriced birthday stereo—except he actually calls. And it’s about what happens after.
Although it is an accurate description, it is perhaps over-simplified. The popularity revolves around the reality of it all. The main character, a girl that remains nameless, may not relate to you directly, but you have met people like her. You know her. Parents have read this book and become shocked. It’s scary, unrealistic fiction. A fourteen-year-old doesn’t do drugs. A fourteen-year-old doesn’t give her boyfriend hand jobs during her lunch break… But to fourteen-year-olds reading the book, it is not shocking. It is life, plain and simple.
The book catches one’s attention right away with the first line, “I was about thirteen when I started letting boys feel me up.” From there, it’s an easy yet captivating read. Though her art may not be perfected, Rebbecca Ray has an ease for writing. She knows what she’s doing. The structure of the novel is especially interesting. Instead of chapters, each containing some meaningful drama and an open-ended transition to the next chapter, the book is completely chapter-less! There are of course some page breaks in between scenes, but that’s all. I like this feature. It allowed me to pick up the book and put it down with ease. It also made the book seem more realistic. Life is not normally laid out in easy to follow transitions, one leading to the next. Also, the lack of chapters allowed Rebbecca to use a sort of stream of consciousness attitude. One action would sometimes lead to a memory, which would lead to an analysis as to why the action may have happened to begin with. It all allows an easy way to relate and sympathize with the characters.
Also, another realistic adaptation was the fact that the main character remains nameless. It gives you the feeling that she is actually telling the story to you and you alone. Is the main character Rebbecca, you might wonder. She says that the book is by no means an autobiography, but she does acknowledge the fact that fourteen was an age of sex and drugs.
Anyway, I think all young writers that want to be a novelist should give this book a go. Although it may not be the best thing ever written, it’s inspirational to think that someone so young could write something so powerful. It’s not a typical teen novel. It’s much better than that random crap you can pick up at the bookstore (i.e. Sweet Valley High). This book has some completely unexpected events that I wouldn’t dare to reveal, and… and just read it. It’s a good weekend book, 400 or so pages that take you back to a time when life was simple yet nothing ever made any sense.
I’m sure that we will hear more about this author. Currently she is working on her second novel, which is expected to be more complex than the first. Since “Pure” she has also written for the New Puritans.