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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


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LOL



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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Not So Pure and Simple

Chapter 1

Pastor Newsome's rules for First Missionary House of the Lord were simple. Every head bowed (mine wasn’t) and every eye closed (nope) while he went on and on with his crazy freestyle prayers.

“Lord!” He gripped his lectern as if fighting a holy tractor beam trying to drag him to heaven right before our eyes. “We know they need to feel that touch from your never-changin’ hand, and we know someone is out there hurtin’ this morning . . .”

Hurtin’? For sure. Between my near-empty wallet forcing me to sit lopsided on that pew-of-steel and yet another infinity sermon, my pain was not in short supply. Newsome was on a roll. He ranted, threw in weird stuff no one seemed to notice, the way he totally did all the time.

“. . . and we see the evil on our TV and in our news reports, Lord. Bless those endangered spider monkeys of the Amazon rain forests!”

Like that.

“Yes, Lord, yes,” Mom mumbled. She squeezed my hand, nearly crushing my fingers with pulsing robot strength on each word. It sounded like she was cosigning on the old man’s insanity, but over the last few weeks I’d noticed her lips moving even when he wasn’t saying stuff. Not repeating Newsome’s lines. Having her own conversation with God, I guessed. The protocols of Mom’s Sunday worship were still fairly new to me.

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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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