My friend Jessica introduced me to this book a couple of weeks ago—the premise was so intriguing, and I thought it was so strange that I’d never heard about it before! I was so excited to see the audiobook on Libby, and I immediately snatched it up. I spent a week excited for my commutes just so I could listen to this book.
Title: Not So Pure and Simple
Author: Lamar Giles
Genres: YA Contemporary
Two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”
Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.
His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.
With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?
Not So Pure and Simple aims to tackle toxic masculinity, male entitlement, slut shaming, and sex education and weaves it all together into an amazing, hilarious narrative that kept my earbuds in my ears as long as possible.
This is all presented through Del’s POV, a Black teenage boy who is at times irreverent (hilariously so), at times thoughtful and introspective, and at times misguided. His handle on each situation that came at him felt so realistic. He strong in some ways and weak in others, which makes him so relatable. I loved seeing him interact with the women in his life, from his crush Kiera, to his friend Cheyenne, as well as his mom and sister. He makes a lot of mistakes, but seeing him learn and grow and unlearn toxic ways of thinking about women is so satisfying.
Each character in this book is also so well-characterized. They each had their own set of problems and issues they were dealing with, and some came in complete conflict with Del. I especially loved Kiera’s impact on the story, as well as Del’s sister, Cressie, and his English teacher, MJ. The impact (for good or bad) Del’s diverse group of friends have on him is also so realistic, and I loved seeing it.
One major aspect of this book is religion, and I really appreciated how the author handled it with complexity and depth. Del’s experience of going to his mom’s new church is a source of annoyance for him at first, and then at times it’s a major source of conflict. But it also brings some positive into his life as he makes new friends and learns more about himself and how he can impact his community.
- Cheyenne is definitely my favorite character, so keep a look out for her 😉
I really loved this book. It was so much fun, and the themes discussed were not ones I see very often in YA these days. I’m excited to read more of Lamar Giles’ novels!