Publication date: 11/29/2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
In a future where the western United States is a warring nation called the Republic, two fifteen-year-olds from seemingly completely separate worlds may be the ones most able to uncover the country’s dark secrets. June is a wealthy military prodigy being molded for the highest ranks in the Republic’s military. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. When Metias, June’s older brother, is murdered it is up to her to find and punish the murderer, and Day is the prime suspect.
In Legend, Marie Lu provides a touching and powerful example of young adult dystopian fiction. Told from dual points of view, this fast-paced novel manages to capture the voices of two similar yet very distinct characters. Each perspective contributes important information that serves the overall development of the story and produces a gradual unveiling of facts that propels the reader forward. Having two different vantage points increases the feeling of suspense and elevates the reader to a position of better understanding. Readers are treated to the inside information June has of the Republic’s inner mechanisms and Day’s firsthand experience with the Republic’s corruption. This more inclusive perspective allows the reader to see just how complex the Republic’s divide-and-conquer technique is. Things cannot be reduced to a privileged class versus oppressed class scenario. Both social classes are victims; both are manipulated, kept ignorant, and treated as pawns by those who wish to monopolize power.
Legend’s main characters open their eyes to struggles and schemes that are deeply personal, but have consequences that stretch beyond their lives and affect an entire nation. The partnership of two characters from the opposite sides of society is essential to uncovering the forces behind the corrupt government. Together they form a wider picture and discover what the government wishes to control and why. Though the relationship between the two main characters could have used more time to develop, their relationship makes sense. June and Day are compatible where it matters and different where necessary. Both are strong, capable characters that are in ideal positions to unearth the dark truths behind the Republic’s power.
Lu’s excellent use of the present tense makes the novel exciting and connects the reader to the main characters: “The butt of a rifle hits me in the ribs. I’m yanked out of a dream-filled sleep—first of my mother walking me to grade school, then of Eden’s bleeding irises and the red number under our porch.” The detailed manner in which the characters describe what they are thinking, what they are feeling, and what they are doing gives Legend the emotional pull that ensnares readers and keeps them engrossed throughout the novel: “ Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.” The characters’ honest perspectives and ability to express themselves create moments of beauty that endow Legend with two powerful and moving voices.
With beautiful writing, strong characters, and an exciting story, Legend is a must-read example of young adult dystopian fiction at its best. Those who decide to read this book will be captivated by the questions surrounding the Republic’s rise to power. Readers will enjoy the dual point of view, the unique feel of the novel, and the gradual acceleration of the plot. By setting the stage for bigger questions and revelations, Legend will leave readers eagerly anticipating Prodigy, the sequel scheduled to be released on January 29, 2013.
About Marie Lu, courtesy of marielu.org:
Marie Lu was born in China in 1984 (perhaps a sign of dystopian stories to come), and moved from Beijing to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the same year the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. Eventually she and her parents settled down in Sugar Land, Texas—which she still considers her hometown.
She finished her first novel when she was 15 years old, but it took her second manuscript to acquire a literary agent. When that manuscript didn’t sell either, she went off to college in Los Angeles and wrote two more. Although those still didn’t sell, one of them did get her the amazing literary agent Kristin Nelson, who sold her fifth manuscript, the dystopian young adult novel LEGEND, to Putnam Children’s/Penguin USA, at auction in a major deal. Legend was released on November 29, 2011 as Putnam Children’s and Penguin Young Readers Group’s lead title. Legend is Marie’s debut novel.
Marie graduated in 2006 from USC and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she spends her time stuck in traffic.