Tuesday, November 29, 2011

[Review] Legend by Marie Lu

Title: Legend {goodreads}
Authors: Marie Lu
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 28/11/11
Publisher: Penguin - Razorbill
RRP: AU$19.95
Source: For review (thanks to publishers!)
Age: 14+ Moderate violence and guns
Pages: 301 (proof copy)

My Rating:

The United States is gone, along with its flooded coasts. North America's two warring nations, the western Republic and the eastern Colonies, have reached a breaking point. In the midst of this broken continent and dark new world are two teenagers who will go down in history....

Born into the slums of Los Angeles, fifteen-year old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. A mysterious boy with no recorded image or fingerprints. A boy who should no longer exist. A boy who watches over his family until one evening, when the plague patrols mark his family's door with an X--the sign of plague infection. A death sentence for any family too poor to afford the antidote. Desperate, Day has no choice; he must steal it.

Born to an elite family in Los Angeles' wealthy Ruby sector, fifteen-year old June is the Republic's most promising prodigy. A superintelligent girl destined for great things in the country's highest military circles. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country--until the day her brother Metias is murdered while on patrol during a break-in at the plague hospital.

Only one person could be responsible.


And now it's June's mission to hunt him down.

The truth they'll uncover will become legend.
My thoughts: 

With the latest development of the dystopian genre (in that, the genre is quickly trending), you'd think it would get more difficult for new books to impress and stand out in the genre. Marie Lu's debut novel LEGEND holds a steady balance between striking action and spirited characters that will surely capture the mind and heart of readers. The moment I reached the end and put the book down, I really did just throw my hands over eyes, overwhelmed by it all. If it had not been 2 am I probably would have vouched for a re-read. Yeah. It was THAT good.

My Synopsis
The general plot of this book is . . . Day is one of the Republic's biggest threats - not only does he wreak havoc wherever he goes, but his fingerprints are unidentifiable, which only serves to frustrate them more. When his family is in trouble, marked by a big red 'X' on their front door, he breaks into the hospital in a rush. Not without a casualty or two. June's brother is killed in the freak accident. Being a child prodigy, having scored a perfect score on her Trials, she takes it upon herself to hunt Day down. No matter what. But there are things the Republic isn't telling her. Things that will change everything she's ever believed in.

The Plot
LEGEND is pitched as a loose retelling of Les Miserables. I can't vouch for that comparison personally, but the general plot really drew me in. I really couldn't wait to read this book, and it really does not disappoint. At first there doesn't seem to be anything too special about the plot that would stand out among other dystopian novels, but there are so many twists that really surprised me.

Characters and relationships
I love Day and June. Day is such an endearing character, he's brashfully honest, and his story is both a mystery and draws the reader in. His family means everything to him, and although he doesn't get to see them often, not one day goes by when he doesn't miss them. He's such an enigma to the Republic, and since we get to hear his voice in the book, we get to know what kind of person he is and how he gets by. His "sidekick", Tess, is such a sweetheart. She's level-headed and despite her young age she knows how to hold her own. June, on the other hand, lives a privileged life and is highly regarded in the community for her outstanding Trials score. It took much longer for me to warm up to her, but as her circumstances change, she begins to show a softer, more human side of her. I love that side of her.

What is better than the characters themselves, is the relationship they each share with each other. Day and June, and Day and Tess, in particular. I'm not going to go into details, since it's better if you read it yourself. ;) Rest assured, their intertwined stories are sweet and help balance out the action-heavy parts of the book. I do have to say, though . . . while there is a romance between Day and June, I thought it would have been sweeter if they were just friends. I want to find more books where a boy and a girl become just really close friends, and I think this book could have benefited from that.

There are more characters in LEGEND, don't you worry! However, pretty much all other characters annoyed me. And they're meant to annoy you, or creep you out, or just disgust you. Mostly, though, this book really just magnifies how much societal ruling can completely brainwash (for lack of a better word) someone so that they will never oppose their leaders' orders, or think to validify the ethical side of their actions. Thomas is one such character in which this message very clearly resonates. He, without question, will gun down an innocent man, if his boss commands him to.

And don't even get me started on a rant about him. His repulsive behaviour doesn't even end there.

Along with great and interesting characters, Lu writes with such fluent ease in her debut novel. LEGEND is written in two person perspective, with - you guessed it - Day and June. What Lu does differently to others who attempt multi-perspective narratives - and succeeded in - is that there isn't a break in the action. The change in perspective doesn't distract the reader. The transitions are seamless. The voices are distinct and even without differential font-types or font-colours between narrative perspectives, it would be very clear who is telling the story. This device also helps to let the reader know each main character on a much more intimate level.

The following is a list of more positives for Marie Lu's debut novel:
  • The secrets and revelations! I really thought I knew exactly what was going on, but there were a few twists along the way that really took me by surprise. If you've read a couple dystopian novels, you should know that surprises and twists is what sets apart a good dystopian from a GREAT dystopian (along with a developed world - characters, emotions, writing . . . those are a given)
  • The world!! Actually pretty well developed, and we do get a sense of how the new LA operates. I kind of wish there was a map, just because I love maps in books. Ha! See, I personally don't know much about the Republics and the Colonies, and I would have personally loved a little introductory information. That might be asking too much though.
  • The covers. I love both of them. I might get both, we'll have to see. I also like the detailings of the insignia on the US cover. I really like when cover designs include something deeply specific to that given book.
  • Families are pretty big. While I never quite got to really KNOW Day's family members personally (they always felt distant), the enormity of Day's passion in protecting them rings true. And I just love that he cares so deeply for them. Same goes for June with her brother. Her strong bond with him is definitely something that had me reaching for the tissue box.
Recommended for any dystopian fan, LEGEND is a fast-paced and heart-racing adventure that critically explores the cracks in a futuristic Los Angeles society. With characters that come to life, Marie Lu's debut novel sets the bar high for future dystopian YA novels.


First lines:
 "My mother thinks I'm dead.
     Obviously I'm not dead, but it's safer for her to think so.
     At least twice a month, I see my Wanted poster flashed on the JumboTrons scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles. It looks out of place up there. Most of the pictures on the screens are of happy things: smiling children standing under a bright blue sky, tourists posing before the Golden Gate Ruins, Republic commercials in neon colors. There's also anti-Colonies propaganda. "The Colonies want our land," the ads declare. "They want what they don't have. Don't let them conquer your homes! Support the cause!"

     Then there's my criminal report. It lights up the JumboTrons in all its multicolored glory:
     FILE NO: 462178-3233   "DAY"
Favourite Quote:
""You should have taken me with you," I whisper to him. Then I lean my head against his and begin to cry. In my mind, I make a silent promise to my brother's killer.
   I will hunt you down. I will scour the streets of Los Angeles for you. Search every street in the Republic if I have to. I will trick you and deceive you, lie, cheat and steal to find you, tempt you out of your hiding place, and chase you until you have nowhere else to run. I make you this promise: your life is mine. (p. 45)


* cheapest Australian e-store price


Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: 2011 Debut Author Challenge

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