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YA, Dystopia/Sci-Fi, 305 pages, Putnam Juvenile
- Series: first in the Legend trilogy, followed by Prodigy (link to Goodreads)
- Pub date: November 29th 2011
- Disclosure: Received a copy of Legend in my Book Blogger Con bag, and my signed copy of Prodigy from the publisher at the Penguin Putnam booth at BEA.
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.The Long...
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
A relevant anecdote: Awhile back, there was a discussion of pop music vs. punk music on Twitter, mostly about how the two genres shouldn't mix. And Wade MacNeil, otherwise known as @dirtyblacklungs, pretty much settled the debate: "I like Pop. I like Punk. I like Cheese. I like Watermelon. You don't see me melting cheese on my watermelon. You feel me?"
And thus, succinctly described, are my feelings on commercial fiction and dystopia at the moment. I love commercial fiction. I love dystopia. But lately, the intersection of the two has been a hot, over-hyped mess. Call me a snob, a killjoy, whatever. But if you're going to sell me on the latest "hot" dystopia novel, be prepared for some stiff resistance.
That said, there is occasionally a book that transcends the marketing machine to become a true phenomenon. Something that even I can put aside my critical reading glasses for and love wholeheartedly. Something that leaves me cheering instead of groaning for a movie adaptation, and leaves me really, truly breathless for a sequel. And that something--after this terrifically long introduction--is Legend by Marie Lu.
Legend has the same, indefinable qualities that make any adventure story great fun: it's unabashedly dramatic without being melodramatic, life and death are always on the line, our main characters are plucky, lovable, romantically entangled, and are always being double-crossed and deluded while we, the reader, guess the truth and cringe--sympathetically--along. It isn't anything like The Hunger Games, other than that I was turning the pages just as quickly as I did for The Hunger Games. It's not social commentary. It's not an epic saga. It's itself, and in a YA market where everybody is trying to write like somebody else, that is a glorious thing.
Marie Lu's writing is clean and simple, with no elegant turns of phrase or clever metaphors, and I like that. I admire an author who, again, writes like herself, unselfconsciously. It's a staggeringly mature and talented debut, and even after this series draws to a close, I know I'll be watching Lu for a long time. She's a writer I can believe in, even as she puts her characters in the most unbelievable situations.
There's no real stab at realism here--we have the deux ex machina of futuristic technology for that. There's very little attempt to make the Republic and its resistance look like a plausible portrait of our future, with the exception of the mass natural disasters and climate change (in this world, Antarctica is inhabited). Instead, Lu sticks to the most universal truth of storytelling: good characters we care about in bad situations we don't want to see them in, and it works. June and Day are both archetypal and yet fleshed out enough that we expect them to walk off the page. It's terrific. I can't even put into words how terrific this book was.
Reservations? I had them, especially at first. Like I said, there's little social commentary to be found, and even less plausibility: would fifteen-year-olds really be military prodigies or a nation's most wanted criminals in any world? But by the end, Legend had utterly won me over, and I jumped straight to the (equally terrific) sequel, which I was lucky enough to have an ARC of. It's every bit as good as it was hyped up to be, and if you haven't read it, you should.
...and the Short:
In a staggeringly mature and talented debut, Marie Lu gives us a rousing, harrowing, terrifically fun adventure story. A late 2011 release, it's easily one of the best books I've read so far this year.
The Final Word: Loved it!
(Psssst! I have an extra ARC of the just-as-awesome sequel Prodigy to give away! Stay tuned for details, and I'll be posting the contest soon.)