Pure Red

Pure RedBy Danielle Joseph

Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: September 8, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Publisher

I, Cassia Bernard, do solemnly swear to find pure red—my passion—this summer. Dad’s passion is art. When he’s painting, no one can reach him, not even me. My mom’s passion was the ocean. She said the ocean allows you to see whatever you want to see. That was one of the last things she ever said to me…

Sometimes what your heart desires isn’t what it needs. Over the course of a hot Miami summer, sixteen-year-old Cassia discovers that sometimes it takes bullies and basketball, a best friend, and a gorgeous guy to help you understand what you actually need—and to help you see that, maybe, everything isn’t so black and white.

Goodreads Summary

According to Cassia Bernard’s school guidance counselor, she’s coasted through school without ever finding any particular place to fit in or any special passion and it’s going to affect her chances for college if she doesn’t find something.  Hoping to rekindle some happiness she felt playing basketball with her friends, Cassia enrolls in the Y’s summer program and finds not only is she good at it but she enjoys the competitive feeling of the game. It’s exciting, a coordinated and focused dance and she’s in the middle of it until an on-court accident knocks her out of the game with a sprained ankle. Forced to sit on the sidelines, she ends up back orbiting her famous father’s life.

Jacques Bernard becomes The Famous Painter wherever he goes, drawing attention, losing track of time and usually forgetting his daughter. Cassia meets a cute guy at one of his exhibits and brings him home, only to find out Graham wants Jacques to mentor him. After her basketball injury, Cassia becomes their third wheel, following Graham and Jacques, hoping Graham will notice her and hoping for once her father will pay attention to her.

This is a slight book in a couple of ways, but still one that was easy to read and I think it will resonate with anyone who’s ever had the experience of being overshadowed by someone or felt like there was something wrong with them because they didn’t know what they wanted to be.

Even though it’s her father that spends his life immersed in paint, it’s Cassia who associates a broad spectrum of complicated emotions with colors. Everything she sees has a meaning, from the gray of the opposing basketball team’s shirts to the purple that Graham always wears. Red is the most important color to her – subconsciously perhaps, because it was her mother’s favorite, because it appears in her father’s paintings often. Cassia could be too introspective and a bit bratty for a sixteen year old, but I really loved the basketball scenes. The bullying with her teammate, the focus she felt during the game and the almost obsessive-compulsive way she practiced all felt very real to me.

I don’t know if I can be anything but irritated with her father. I thought he was shamefully neglectful although I will give the author credit – the scenes in the story where he completely tuned Cassia out to go pay attention to someone else were just painful. I can’t say that I bought his redemption – strictly as a reader, I needed more page time to forgive him.

I see-sawed a little with Graham and Cassia’s friendship and sort-of more. I liked him, sometimes against my better judgment, because I couldn’t tell what his motivations always were. I think whether or not he was boyfriend material, he was good for Cassia because he made her think about what she deserved and wherever they ended up off the page, I was okay with that.

My Summary: This isn’t a book driven by external conflict or one that has any great drama. It’s a quiet book, with the relatively quiet personal issues of one girl in one summer. I loved the way Joseph used colors for emotional imagery, especially as it’s used almost defiantly by Cassia at times. Even if this isn’t strictly a “message” book, I think it stands well as a coming-into-self story that nearly all of us can relate to.

My Rating: B-




  1. I really love the cover and it sounds interesting. BTW – I love your little chocolate, heart shaped social network icons. Cute!

  2. Isn't the cover cute? Since the book is so much about colors, I thought the red of her shirt and the blue of his across the table were kind of fun.I swear, whenever I get too hungry, I want to lick those icons. lol They're a little too chocolatey some days. 🙂

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