If I don't shout maybe I can save myself, save the rest of us. But I don't know how I can just look on and watch a murder. Can you do that? Can you l
If I don't shout maybe I can save myself, save the rest of us. But I don't know how I can just look on and watch a murder. Can you do that? Can you look on and do nothing? It feels like I ought to do something. It feels like all of this was because we all just stood by and did nothing, in the before time, in the time when we had every flipping day to sort out all the Connors and all the Jases and all the Lucases ever born.
I went into this with some trepidation, because I think we'd all agree, this is a tricky subject to take on. To make this powerful and meaningful, to show the horror of the situation, but also any hope - slim hope, slim humanity - to avoid sensationalism and finger-pointing...it all just seemed like too much to ask. And briefly in the beginning, I was worried that it was going to be too much to ask. But Mussi somehow pulls it off, despite all of the times it could have gone wrong. Siegeis powerful and effecting and so very, very horrific, but I never felt like Mussi was just going for shock-value or trying to fulfill a quota on bleak atrocities.
But my god, her success with Siege makes this a hard review to write. When I finished the book - in the middle of the night, mind you - I wanted nothing more than to just get up and record a vlog for you guys, a sort of impressions video, 1/2 review, 1/2 discussion. Because frankly, I needed to talk it out. But as it was the middle of the night, and as I was essentially a shattered mess, that didn't seem like the best idea. But now I'm stuck wondering how do I write about this? How do I discuss this without being raw, and without giving too much away?
What makes this book work so well is Leah Jackson, the smarter-and-braver-than-she-could-have-ever-realized main character. The way the story is filtered through her experiences - who she is, her need to help and fix and save and live - and her fear that her brother may somehow be involved, is what makes the story so powerful. Mussi evolves Leah's character very well throughout the story, from the beginning panic and confusion, through her disgust and her questioning and examining, and all of her realizations and revelations; Leah grows tremendously in a very condensed time frame, and the reader is led along at break-neck speed, thinking the same thoughts Leah does at the same time she thinks them. Leah's adrenaline practically drips off the page. This is a visceral read; it gets you in the guts. My heart pounded - literally pounded - reading this. That just doesn't happen to me. I get butterflies when something is really good, yes, but heart-pounding, physical, nervous anxiety is a rare one for me. And of course the way I felt completely gutted in the end... there was that. All of this happens through Leah and her somewhat stream of consciousness narration, and it makes for a really compelling read.
But this is part of what will make it a very difficult book for some people to read. There is no break from Leah's voice, and she is in the thick of things right from the start. There are no little side jaunts with other characters, no forays into the outside world for reactions - nothing to give the reader a break from the relentless anxiety and stress that Leah is under, both physically and mentally. Leah witnesses a lot of things no one should have to witness, and is forced to contemplate things or act on things that no one should have to face. I wouldn't call Siege gratuitous, necessarily, and I don't think Mussi descended into sensationalism and useless violence, but she doesn't flinch away from the true horrors of a situation like this. But I think everything is done with an eye to being honest to the story and the situation, and (more importantly) to the whole of the situation, all of the little things that lead to something like this. Most readers will know within pages - if not even before they start the book - whether Siege is the right type of read for them, but for those that can handle it, I think they'll find it a really compelling read with a lot of fascinating gray area to explore. And I think they'll find it surprisingly - perhaps uncomfortably - relatable.
I will say, I was really, really leery of the use of government presence in this. There came a point early on where I started to have suspicions, and as I was slowly proven right, I kept asking myself whether this weakened the story or strengthened it. I don't want to give anything away, but there's an element of the Grand Government Conspiracy here, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it (sadly, scarily) is believable for the world that has been set up. Even more sad and scary, is that there are definitely people who believe these Grand Government Conspiracies are happening here and now in relation to shootings. Seriously. Google "Sandy Hook conspiracy theories" and you'll see what I mean. So even though this particular instance is believable and works for the story, and even though it sort of parallels the way people search to impose meaning on senseless acts, I could never really decide if I felt it was a necessary element, and whether it added or detracted from the central issues of the story. It worked in the end, and maybe even won me over; I think Mussi certainly handled it better than many would. But I think there are readers who are going to find it one thing too much in a book that already begins as a struggle for some to read.
The only other thing I want to touch on - and that, only briefly - is the ending. I really can't say much because I don't want to give a single itty, bitty thing away, but I think some readers will be very bothered by at least one aspect of the ending - and really, there are a few to choose from. Personally, I was not bothered, and it's one of the things that had me sitting up late into the night, talking myself down from the book, and thinking that it would make for a really intriguing group or book club read. In some respects, I think things happened in the only way they really could, but at the same time, the end leaves so much to talk about and think over, and - if you're brave enough - feel, and after all the stress and tension of the book, these last few twists of the knife might be a bit too much for some readers. Personally, I think feeling it is good; being bothered by it is good. This is a book to be discussed, not reviewed.
[And I'm going to be completely honest with you and tell you that, not only did I have a really good cry when I finished (an interesting book-cry, not just sad, but sort of drained and hollowed out), but I also teared up a few times writing this review, as it all came back to me. It's not just the things that happen in the book, but the way Mussi makes you feel, and the way a story like this - at least for me, an American woman who hears about these things far too often, and who for a long time intended to be a teacher - really hits home.] ...more
Whyyyyyyy is this review just now going up? I vlogged about it in DECEMBER. (Well, technically January, but it was my December Rewind). OH I REMEMBER. I was going to put my review of Pure up at the same time Fusecame out...which was last week. Thanks, Brain.
Alright, so: I was really pleasantly surprised by Pure. Not that I was expecting to be disappointed by it, but there's just been such a glut of dystopias and post-apocalyptics for the last few years, and I've learned not oto expect to much... (which is really hard, as it's my favorite genre and I can't help but add these books to my TBR - even when I have suspicions they're going to be crap.) But I've begun pretending to myself that I don't have high hopes anymore (lie), and as I had heard both really, really good and really not so good things about Pure before picking it up, I was curious how I would react to it. As it turns out, it very nearly made it into my top reads of 2012 chat, so clearly I needn't have worried.
I think the first thing that really impressed me about Pure is that Baggott analyzed things the way I do. The little, seemingly inconsequential bits of everyday life, and how those would change in a post-apocalyptic setting, generally go ignored in PA books, and this bothers me. It may sound like the most absurd, nit-picky thing ever, but I have been waiting for an author to think these tiny things through, and Baggot did. Silly little phrases we use now have lost meaning for the new generation in Pure, as they have no frame of reference. So, when an older character uses one of these phrases, the younger characters are puzzled by them, or flat-out just don't know what they mean. I'm really not exaggerating when I say I've been waiting for this. It's something I've always kind of focused in on with dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, and I can't help but be irritated when a character uses a really anachronistic phrase or word that just doesn't fit with what their world is now. Things should lose meaning. This is not our world. Sure, some phrases and words will stick around even when all context for them is gone (we have those types of phrases now); but at some point, people just aren't going to say things that make no sense in their world. Because Pure has an abrupt shift in world paradigm, it makes sense that the younger characters are going to be confused by phrases they no longer have a context for. Baggott points this out (subtly) and I could have cheered/cried with the at last-ness of it. It makes the world so much more believable in a really understated, logical way.
The other thing that impressed me is that this book is really weird. It's super dark and bleak. It's really, really bleak, and not like it's trying too hard to be dark, but just like it is. This world is dark, that's just the way it is. (I mean, it's post-apocalyptic, so...) And it is hella weird. If you haven't read the premise, basically the characters live in a world where, after a catastrophic event, survivors were molecularly fused with anything in too-close a proximity. Things become a part of you, you become a part of things. There's no way to fix it, no way to reverse it. One instant, you're you; the next, you're you plus the pretty little kitty cat you reached down to pet. This is your life now... The main character has a doll's head for a hand, and she can make its eyes blink. (shudder) There's a boy with birds wings flapping on his back. People fused to other people, people fused to animals. People fused to mothereffing dust, I kid you not. They're like a human sandstorm, and it is CREEPY. All of this takes a HUGE willing suspension of disbelief, of course, but it is totally worth it if you're able to just go with it. All of this really dark, bleak weirdness made Pure unlike anything else I've read. It's inventive and unsettling, and I really have to hand it to Baggott that she was somehow able to make this work.
I did feel, though, that it falls apart a little at the end. Most of the book is very slow-burning and almost dense; it certainly wasn't something I flew through, even though I consistently enjoyed it. But at the end, when the giant human-dustball snowball's at its apex and about to come barrelling down on you, things sort of fall apart. Baggott just can't quite handle when the shit hits the fan, and things become a little bit muddled. Everything suddenly becomes too easy and happens way too fast, and there are too many characters and motivations and things in too short a span. The storytelling is a little overwhelmed by it all - which is especially jarring after this very slow-building, very not-easy story. Also, personally, I didn't need any little bit of romance in this, but alas... At least it wasn't too all-consuming. The story is still impressive, though, and I'll certainly be reading more of the series.Though it's a little too convenient in its "local" scope (everyone needed or important is pretty easily at-hand), it is very impressive in its story-scope and its bleakness. The far-reaching breadth of the story, the way Baggott touches on the factors of our society that led up to this cataclysmic event without being heavy handed or didactic, these things all really worked. Baggot doesn't beat the reader over the head with anything, but all of these little tidbits are there for readers who like to suss them out; they're just there, they just are, and I was really impressed by that. Highly recommended for those who are looking for something different and darker than what's generally found....more