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All booksYoung adultNot So Pure and Simple
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
Young adult

Not So Pure and Simple

by Lamar Giles

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


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LOL


Why I love it

Ebony LaDelle
"Why Not YA?"

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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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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Check out a preview of Not So Pure and Simple.

Member thoughts

All (150)
All (150)
Love (78)
Like (69)
Dislike (3)
159 ratings
  • 49% Love
  • 43% Like
  • 2% Dislike
  • Cathedral City, CA

    This was a fun read. Much of the high school dynamics were so spot on from what I remember all those years ago. Becoming an adult is tough, and sometimes it's the adults making the evolution tougher!

  • Louisville, KY

    A good book is one you can’t stop thinking about when you’re not reading it. This book did just that for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. I didn’t want it to be over.

  • Stuart, IA

    Oh wow. I had heard really great things about this book and it definitely lived up to the hype. Del is a kid that I've met, that I've talked to, that exists in every nook and cranny of the world.

  • Omaha, NE

    It takes a little bit of reading to get into it, but once you do it’s great! The main character has a ton of self-growth, and there are many valuable lessons to be learned from this book.

  • Chicago, IL

    Everyone should read this thoughtful analysis of church youth culture and toxic masculinity. This book is accessible for teen readers but deep enough that adults should give it a try.

  • Moline, IL

    It took a little bit to get into, but once it picked up, it picked up. I want this book in teen boys hands so they can see examples of “nice guy” syndrome to be better.

  • Little Elm, TX

    I was not at all prepared for how good this book was going to be! The lessons, the characters, the emotions - they were all so relatable and beautiful even as an adult!

  • Washington, DC

    aww, Del was trying so hard to get the girl, and kept making all these mistakes. a real believable story about a teenage boy dealing with toxic masculinity.

  • Newbury Park, CA

    Strong writing, extremely well-fleshed characters, and relevant themes that were handled so well. Giles is most definitely a talented writer!

  • Norwalk, CT

    Top notch YA. I really enjoyed the voice of the main characters and also how all of the issues in the book were handled. I really liked it.

  • Hartsdale, NY

    Super powerful and subtle book about toxic masculinity in our culture and how that is passed on to teen boys and harms teen girls.

  • Ames, IA

    This book is fantastic and ends up being an incredibly deep discussion about toxic masculinity and how it is learned behavior.

  • Portland, OR

    This book has so many timely themes that can open up a dialogue that needs to be had! It is well written and made me think.

  • Blairsburg, IA

    This is the first time I had heard of this author, but the content was very intriguing to the hugh school students I teach.

  • Bentleyville, PA

    Words cannot describe how mesmerized I was by this novel! It kept me turning the pages for hours at a time.

  • Clinton, MS

    Important topic for teens and everyone. Superb writing and loved all the nods to other black writers.

  • Readyville, TN

    Sex, church, toxic masculinity? I want to give a copy of this to every teenager I know. So smart.

  • philadelphia, PA

    Loved this book, trigger warning for sexual assault. My favorite ya contemporary of all time ♡

  • Saginaw, TX

    Love the topic makes you think about it in your life and reevaluate

  • Monmouth, OR

    This is such an important book for teen boys to read

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