Monday, November 7, 2011
Review: Legend by Marie Lu
Tags: YA, dystopian, he-said/she-said
In the war-happy Republic, located in the former western United States, 15-year-old Day is the most wanted criminal. Not because he’s the most dangerous, but because his elusiveness—he was supposed to have died five years ago, after all—discredits the Republic’s control. When Day’s latest break-in leads to the death of Captain Metias Iparis, Metias’ little sister, the child prodigy June Iparis, vows to be the one to hunt Day down.
But as their lives cross paths and they get to know one another, the truth they learn about the Republic will change them forever…
A premise that sounds like a dystopian Robin Hood? You didn’t have to ask me twice if I wanted to read this. Marie Lu provides us with a solid dystopian read in her debut novel that, while not incredible, still proves to be very enjoyable.
LEGEND’s strength lies in Lu’s writing. Written in alternating POVs, Day’s and June’s voices feel completely natural: both of them have genius-level intelligences, which shows in the way they approach and analyze situations (a great relief from those YA novels whose main characters claim to be smart but then they do or think the most idiotic things). LEGEND will appeal to readers who like their dystopian books endearingly unsentimental, in the way Katniss is a reluctant but still beloved hero. Both June and Day are like that: they are very focused on what needs to be done, and do not exhibit the types of thoughts or behavior that normal teenagers do.
This makes it believable that they live in a world where violence is part of the job description. This is no half-hearted dystopian world: the government does things that leave even me shocked and uncomfortable. LEGEND will surely become one of those books that censorship-happy critics target due to its darkness.
The trouble is, LEGEND’s violence does feel a bit gratuitous. It’s not that I have qualms about violence in YA fiction; I love The Hunger Games, after all. It’s more that I still struggle to understand what purpose the violence in LEGEND serves, except to make the government as scary as possible. But the revelation that June and Day uncover about the government is rather anticlimactic, considering all the setup. I feel more scared by less violence-proven fictional dystopian governments, such as The Giver’s, than I did by LEGEND’s over-the-top controlling government.
While I adored June and Day individually, I felt like their romance left something to be desired. Here, I suppose, is where their age shows, for their mutual attraction seemed to arise more out of the fact that they each find the other to be different than anyone they’ve ever met and less due to an actual liking of one another. Still, I did like them individually, and thought they were pretty well developed in that regard. I had no problem with those two as the main characters, but perhaps if the book hadn’t been sold to me with such a heavy emphasis on an epic romance I would’ve been more impressed.
So LEGEND is not perfect, but solid writing and two sympathetic main characters make it a cut above most other dystopian YA out there. Dystopian fans will surely want to keep this on their radar, though perhaps toning down your expectations a notch will make it a better read for you.
Veronica Roth (Divergent)
Cover discussion: Um, this cover is FANTASTIC. I love how it goes in the vein of The Hunger Games and is a simple design, yet devastatingly effective at drawing your attention. What's even cooler is that inside (the ARC, at least), Day's sections are printed in gold. Wonder if they'll keep that in the finished copy. I don't see why they wouldn't!
Putnam Juvenile / Nov. 29, 2011 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $17.99
Sent by publisher for review.