BAYA Book Review

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

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Giles, Lamar. Not So Pure and Simple. Quill Tree Books, 2020. 398p. ISBN: 9780062349194. $17.99.

Del Rainey has been trying to catch Keira Westing’s attention since elementary school, but she has always had a boyfriend, until his luck changed at the beginning of his junior year of high school. Del’s mom has suddenly started going to church, the church Keira and her family attend, and Keira just broke up with her boyfriend, Colossus. Win, win. Del hasn’t been paying much attention in church, but when Pastor Newsome calls up a bunch of youth from the congregation and Keira is one of them, Del makes the split section decision to join. Had he been paying attention, he wouldn’t have been blindsided by the question: why he thinks waiting to have sex until marriage is important. The complete opposite of what he was hoping for with himself and Keira. Del persists and attempts to use the group he just joined, the Purity Pledgers of the First Missionary, to try and get closer to Keira. Little does he know that his already established reputation of being someone who gets around, though false, has already ruined the perspective Keira has of him. Del tries everything in his power to get close to Keira, being foiled at every step. Along with his attempts at romance, Del’s school, Green Creek High School, has its own drama unfolding as several new teen mothers return to school after the fabled “baby-getters” incident the previous academic year. Will Del be able to start a romantic relationship with Keira with the help of Qwan, Del’s best friend, and the newly organized Purity Pledgers?

This book has a ton to unpack: Del’s misogynistic misconceptions of relationships and women, family bonding, religion verses state and teaching sex education, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, public shaming and more.. This book was amazing and breaks down societal norms and misconceptions. Giles explains it all through family, a woke older sister, and an amazing, possibly fictionalized, YouTuber.. Ultimately, Del learns a lot of sorely needed life lessons he isn’t getting from school.

All of the characters are well developed and allow you to empathize with them. I have to give Giles props because there isn’t one character, except for maybe the YouTuber, who doesn’t change and develop, for the better, throughout the book. There is no one bad person in this book, except maybe Colossus, but he too is held accountable for his actions eventually. Also, this is one of the most feminist works of fiction I have ever read that is written for teens.

I highly recommend this read to anyone in high school. Considering the topics addressed, there are not any graphic descriptions and only one f-bomb.

-Jessica Lundin, San Jose Public Library

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