- Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
Giles, Lamar Not So Pure and Simple. HarperTeen, 2020 [400p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-234919-4 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-234921-7 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8-12
When his longtime crush Kiera breaks up with her boyfriend and joins the church's Purity Pledge group, high school junior Del sees an opportunity to make his move, even if it means agreeing to abstinence (a vow he fully intends to break when he hooks up with Kiera). Kiera's childhood pal Jameer offers to get Del in with Kiera, but in exchange, Del has to answer anonymous questions from the inexperienced "Purity Pledgers" regarding sex, where his rumored expertise is much greater than the reality. He is so focused on getting Kiera, however, he ends up throwing both his group pals and a teacher under the bus, ignores his friends, and refuses to accept the idea that Kiera just might not be that interested in him. This is a deeply funny and searingly honest look at teen sex, adults' anxieties around it, and the toxic masculinity that so often shapes it. Del is a likable if sometimes frustrating kid, but the author doesn't let him off easy—he's engaged in plenty of sexist behavior even as he criticizes those around him, and when Kiera rejects him, he pulls out the Nice Guy defense pretty easily. The women in his life (and eventually a few men) ultimately school him on what respect actually looks like, and if the tone tips occasionally into prescriptive (the sit-down with his fiercely feminist sister is almost comically unsubtle), it's forgivable considering the complex subject it tackles.