Teen Art & Lit — Book Reviews
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by Marie Lu
My wife is a Youth Services librarian so our place has a constant flow of contemporary young adult books coming through. My relationship with reading a lot of youth fiction sort of ends in the late 70's, but when I saw a hard cover copy of Legend, by Marie Lu (2011) sitting on the top of a stack on the coffee table, I was intrigued enough to pick it up and give it a look. I was still reading half an hour later when my wife got home, and I finished it in a few days (confession: I am a bookaholic and thus have to discipline myself against reading entire books in a sitting - nothing else tends to get done).
So by my introduction I guess I've revealed that this will be a fairly positive review. Ms. Lu's book will be tough to describe without giving away too much, and almost anything is too much as the richness of this world is doled out with a nuanced rhythm that at the conclusion makes you painfully grateful there is a sequel (a trilogy, actually). The story begins in an unknown future time in Los Angeles, immediately recognizable as dystopian. There are two alternating narrators, both 15 years old, one male and one female, from very different circumstances, yet both prodigies of a kind. From the beginning, the author draws you purposefully into this well-imagined world, showing the reader the details that make up the story and avoiding heavy-handed exposition. I wouldn't describe the pace as relentless, but nearly so. I was able to put the book down, but not for long. The main and supporting characters are well drawn, and especially the two protagonists, make us care about them right away. I can't say enough positives about the world Ms. Lu created, as she reveals more and more detail, the reader realizes that this story stretches both forward and backward in time.
Ms. Lu credits Les Miserables as her inspiration for Legend. This and other allusions (including a lovely Dickens' one), plus fantastic plotting, pace and characterization, make this book eminently readable for any age, 12 and up. It's an obvious read-alike for Suzanne Collins', The Hunger Games, and it will surprise no one that the film is forthcoming - and this story will make a great movie.