Not So Pure and Simple

High-school junior Del Rainey can’t get back from family vacation fast enough, having heard from his best friend Qwan that Kiera Westing is now a free woman since she broke up with her boyfriend Colossus. Del has been secretly in love with Kiera since kindergarten though she has no inkling of it. Qwan tells him it’s time to act quickly before some other guy steps in. (Kiera has had an unbroken stream of boyfriends.) Together he and Qwan plot a strategy to make things happen.

When Del accompanies his mom to Sunday services at First Missionary House of the Lord–a fairly new tradition for his family–he spends some time Prayer Peeking at Kiera during the service. When the pastor’s niece Sister Vanessa stands up and asks the youth who wants to join together on a “wonderful journey,” Del finds himself jumping up to follow Kiera to the front. Only too late does he discover that he has agreed to participate in an eight-week Purity Pledge program that espouses sexual abstinence before marriage. Everyone, including his mother, is surprised. (Among his peers, Del has a reputation of being a player. In his family, Del has amazed them by going to church at all.) Afterwards, Kiera’s best friend Jameer makes an offer to help Del realize his goal, with the promise of some yet-to-be-specified future payback. And thus begins a detailed, thoughtful, often humorous tale of teenage expectations regarding relationships, sexual mores and gender equality. Concomitant themes involve sexual abuse and violence on college campuses (Del’s sister is a college freshman), the power of social media (and, in particular, YouTube influencers) to impact individual change, and the possibility of personal redemption/transformation.

Language excepted, I can’t imagine any young adult who wouldn’t find this book useful. I’d add it to any high school library collection.

Categories: Books We Recommend, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Racism, Social Media, Sports Teams

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