Another dystopian YA trilogy gets a half-million dollar book contract, plus a movie deal

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Think the dystopian young-adult novel craze has died down? Guess again. A post-apocalyptic dystopian trilogy just scored over half a million dollars from a major publisher, plus a movie deal. We talked to author Julianna Baggott about her PURE trilogy.

According to last night's Publishers Marketplace, Julianna Baggott scored a "major deal" (which means more than half a million dollars) for her PURE trilogy, "a YA/adult crossover dystopian novel about a society of haves, who escaped an apocalypse in a futuristic dome-covered city, and have-nots, who survived the nearly destroyed outside world." And according to Baggott, the film rights sold to Fox 2000 last week — which probably helped stoke the fires of the book auction, which Grand Central Publishing won. (And yes, the "crossover" thing means they're hoping to sell it to adults as well as YA readers.)

We asked Baggott what she thought made her dystopian trilogy so appealing to publishers, and here's what she told us:

All novels come from the singular mind of the author – the accumulation of a life and the dark finery of the subconscious. But sometimes a novel comes along that makes this statement seem truer – Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Cronin's The Passage, Collins' Hunger Games. PURE feels like the convergence of my most radical impulses.

When an editor at major graphic novel publishing house asked me a few years ago if I had a graphic novel in me, I'd just started writing a series of literary absurdist short stories. One character had emerged who seemed like she might work, but I wanted to hold onto her. She felt like the kind of character I could build a world around - a world I wanted to build with language.

PURE is now about this girl who lives, post-apocalyptically, in the shadow of the Dome. Some of the heart of this story comes from my own grandfather, a double amputee from WWII. I was raised amid his handguns, prosthetics, the violent reminders of war. The main character dreams of the Before and life inside the Dome, and, while writing, she felt archetypal. I felt much the way she did at sixteen. I felt eyed. I wanted to run and to stay hidden and never leave home. I was sure there was some other place – like the Dome – where things were better. I thought I wanted into that life, and, growing up meant realizing it doesn't really exist. More than anything, I longed to know who the hell I was.

And now my oldest, a daughter, is fifteen. It's the same for her as it was for me. These things don't change. This is why some of our dystopic fiction resonates so deeply with readers of all ages. The world is dystopic. On this psychological level, PURE is realism. And this novel seems deeply my own.

The novel follows two main characters — this female character outside of the Dome, among the wretches, and a male character inside the Dome — and we play out how these two lives become entwined.


Domed city art by Chris Palesty.