Not So Pure and Simple

HarperTeen. Jan. 2020. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062349194.
Gr 8 Up–Del Rainey attends church with his mother just to get close to his crush, Kiera Westing. When Kiera and other teens approach the altar during a service, he jumps up to join the youth group so he can spend more time with Kiera. Del realizes he just became a Purity Pledger, committed to staying ”sexually pure” until marriage. Jameer, another Purity Pledger, promises to help Del connect with Kiera in exchange for the one thing Pledgers don’t have—access to accurate information about sexual health. Del is the only one taking Healthy Living at school; the pastor won’t allow his young parishioners to enroll. This happens right after a spate of teen pregnancies in town. Local media called it a pregnancy pact, though it was actually the result of multiple snow days and boredom. One of the girls tires of being labeled a “Baby-Getter” and calls out her child’s father on social media, demanding accountability for the fathers and less focus on the mothers. Without being didactic, this story explores expectations around gender roles and calls out toxic behaviors that even “good guys” are guilty of. The impact of social media, religion, and adults’ handling of these issues is also examined. The narrative successfully integrates all of these elements into a compelling story of young people sorting through conflicting messages and social pressures around sexuality and relationships. The characters and their reactions to various situations are realistically complicated, creating a believable, relatable story.
VERDICT A powerful first purchase for any library serving teens.

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