LEGEND, Marie Lu, 305pages, $17.99 Hardback
Reviewed by Laura Bird
If you’re looking for a fast paced dystopian romance, you are in luck. “Legend” will take you on a ride. The two main characters tell their stories against the backdrop of war, plague, poverty, and endlessly playing Jumbo-Tron screens. For readers seeking a “Yaroos Gold Standard” book however, you may find some aspects of this novel don’t quite measure up.
This story is set in a future America that finds our nation divided once again. No longer a United States, but a country split in two. The Republic, on the west coast, is at war with the Colonies, a group attacking from the east. The novel is set in downtown LA, which has partially sunk into the ocean and is ravaged by plague.
Day and June, the two main characters, alternate chapters giving the reader a view of their lives as they head towards an inevitable collision. Day is a fifteen year-old boy from the impoverished part of the city. He spends his time wreaking havoc on the Republic’s military efforts, while watching over his family from afar: A family who thinks he’s dead, and is in constant danger of exposure to the plague.
Day is extremely street smart, clever, protective, and agile. And while his actions are those of a strong teenage boy, his narrative doesn’t always add up. The voice he is given by the author seems a stretch, and at times his thoughts and words don’t mesh with his external actions and character.
June, a fifteen year-old girl genius and parentless prodigy, has the skill and smarts to take on any challenge that comes her way. She has out paced all of her peers, and holds the only perfect score on her Trial, a test given to ten year-old children to determine their future positions in The Republic. She is born of wealth and privilege, and has been given the best the Republic has to offer. June is insightful, and it is often her keen observations that give us the best clues into how this futuristic world works.
At times the voices of Day and June feel very similar, almost as if they are the same character. This novel could have been written in the third person perhaps, making that a non-issue. However, the reader is helped along by a change in type style and ink color for the two characters, should confusion arise. I found myself wondering if maybe Day and Edward from the twilight series by Stephanie Mayer were cut form the same soft fuzzy romantic cloth.
This well paced page-turner throws so much in the paths of its characters that they are challenged at every turn. From the dark agendas of the novel’s one-dimensional villains, to the injustices of the class system, Day and June have their hands full from page one. It’s June’s quest for justice against her brother’s killer that sparks this story into motion, and sets these characters on a dangerous collision course. From the moment Day and June are introduced, the reader knows that an impossible love is in the stars.
It’s no surprise that this book was picked up as a film even before it was published. Marie Lu’s background as an art director for video games is in evidence during her action sequences and visual descriptions. I’m confident that this will make an excellent film once talented actors round out, and give dimension to these tortured characters.
I’ve heard “Legend” compared to “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and they do share a thread in terms of the basic plot set-up. But Suzanne Collins is a master of this genre, with the ability to create unique multidimensional characters that exist in a fully realized world. It seems Marie Lu, while not yet a master, is beginning to find her character’s voices, and I hope with two more books to come, she will live up to the promise she displays in “Legend”.