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Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
Young adult

Not So Pure and Simple

by Lamar Giles
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Quick take

Ah, the things teens do to get the girl. Like accidentally taking a purity pledge and dealing with its social stigma.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Teen


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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?

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Why I love it

One of the things I’m loving about YA right now is that we’re seeing more and more stories being told by Black male writers about Black boys. So much of what is fed to the masses is that Black boys are troublemakers, or that there are only two types of kids: one that is a problem child and another that is squeaky clean. There can never be a Black teenage boy that falls somewhere in the middle. But in Not So Pure and Simple we see just that: a complex portrait of a lovably imperfect boy struggling with his identity in many forms.

The novel follows Del, who has had a childhood crush on Kiera Westing since literally forever. But he’s never had a shot until now—it’s their junior year and she just broke up with her boyfriend. Which means he’s ready to do anything (however unconventional) to get the girl he wants. Even if that means taking a Purity Pledge.

Like the tv show Sex Education, this book is an excellent portrayal of a male protagonist dealing with the complications of sex. Del might be acting with the best intentions, but his friends are giving him the side eye, and even his dad is worried about what this pledge means for his manhood. And though Del is all about Kiera, his actions never once consider her feelings, or what she might want.

Del’s not all troublemaker, nor all squeaky clean. He’s a nice guy who is complicated and flawed, and I loved every minute of his story. Toxic masculinity is not talked about enough, and Lamar Giles shines in speaking to this and other issues in this book.

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