Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Legend by Marie Lu

How do you unwind and relax? I have several ways, but a favorite is watching brainless, entertaining action movies; particularly the summer-type - with a bit of humor, gobs of special effects, an engaging character, and maybe a touch of romance. My mouth goes slack and brain shifts to a lower gear. This dystopian novel reminds me of my escapist trips to movie theaters. It is predictable for the most part with a few surprises, it oozes tension with life-and-death situations, and it's characters are geniuses (of course). While young readers will like the entertaining book, I can't give it 3 stars because the cursory writing, stereotypical characters, and predictable plot that had more loose ends than a frayed rug. It sets up for the sequel and I know questions will be answered in upcoming books, but the author should have wrapped up at least one major plot point. It isn't just a cliff hanger, it's a crater hanger. Actually, there are quite a few crater hangers out there and it reeks of publishers wanting money. Cut a book in the middle and call it two books. Grrrr....

The main characters, June and Day, alternate points of view. June is a genius and the only teenager ever to get a perfect score on her Trials, a test that determines where students will be placed in the Republic. Her fame follows her to the prestigious Drake University where she is prepped to be a military leader. She is several years ahead of her classmates and gets into trouble because she is bored. Her family life and career has been one of wealth and success; whereas Day is a boy on the run who has failed his Trials and steals from the government scavenging daily for money and food. He's famous for scaling a four-story building in five seconds and taunting the government with outlandish feats and showy antics making him a hero to the people of the slums. He is a sci-fi robin hood, a champion of the poor, known to give away money he steals from the government. When Day's younger brother gets The Plague, he steals much-needed medicine causing him to slash paths with June that triggers a series of disastrous events that threatens those he loves and uncovers corruption in the Republic.

The start has a great hook that pulls the reader quickly into the story with tension resulting from Day being on the run from the government that wants him dead. Nice flashbacks are worked into the setup creating a backdrop of an autocratic society. The Republic suppresses the poor people with the power held by the Elector Primo. The Primo is old and it is appears the man, Chian, who runs the trials has quite a bit of control. These elitist men are contrasted with Day who grew up in the slums that are ruled by corrupt police, disease, and hunger. Life is harsh and the elite look upon the people inhabiting the slums as subhuman.

The characters are stereotypical with their athleticism and gorgeous looks. I like that they have different ethnic backgrounds but I was disappointed (although not surprised) that Day is a genius too. I would have found Day more interesting as a character who can't take tests, but is brilliant. He and June are too much alike and seem stereotypical of the brilliant character who saves the world. Perhaps it is the secret desire of many people to be geniuses which is why this is such a popular trope found in escapist literature. I think characters are more authentic when they must rely on their wits, like the character in "The False Prince," by Jennifer Nielsen. I thought the theme of those in the Republic viewing those as the slums as subhuman could have been explored more to create more depth and tension.

The plot starts out okay and has predictable spots and unpredictable spots. There is a romance thrown in the middle that slows the pace a tad but luckily it moves on. It might turn off some readers who are absorbed in the action, but the kissing doesn't last long and the two are too busy trying to survive to think too much about their feelings for each other. I thought Thomas could have been worked into the plot better as a surprise, but he's laid out as a one-dimensional character with no resolution at the end. The younger brother isn't explained nor is the Republic and who's behind the conspiracy. I wanted at least one resolution with the powers-that-be in the Republic, but it never happens leaving me miffed.

This book is popular with students. They like the action and don't care that the writing is perfunctory or the plot unfinished. The vocabulary is accessible and the romance clean. It's good for grade 5 students and up. I recommend buying it for your library and encouraging others to read it. Just don't expect too much. Grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in for a nice escape.

Young Adult
2 Smileys

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