Legend by Marie Lu
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 305 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: 29 November 2011
Buy the book: Amazon
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
With dystopian novels being "the thing" right now, Legend definitely stands out in a crowd as a wonderful addition. I love me a good dystopia setting, so when I heard about this novel, I simply had to read it. Marie Lu is definitely a gifted writer, not to mention she has some amazing world-building skills. Legend takes place in the Republic, a militaristic society built on order, control and secrets. I really enjoyed how Marie took known landmarks (it basically takes place in Los Angeles) and turned them into something completely new. As the reader, though you can still see some resemblance to the world we know now, it's quite shocking to see how much it has changed since the formation of this new nation. All in all, the setting is clear, well planned and just a touch eerie.
One of my favorite aspects of Legend is the alternating narrators, Day and June. I can honestly say that I absolutely loved BOTH of the main characters. June is a strong, intelligent girl who has grown up as a "prodigy" in the wealthier part of the nation. She has a quick mind and is ridiculously good at what she does. She's been training for years to be a kick-butt soldier for her country and she relishes the opportunity to do so. I was absolutely in love with the relationship she had with her brother, Metias. They were so close and it was incredibly devastating when he was killed. Frankly, I wish he had had a longer part in the story because I liked him so much, but I understand why that couldn't happen. Instead of retreating into herself for ages, June goes all super human and decides to hunt down and destroy the person she has been told is responsible for her beloved brothers death.
Enter Day, the suspect in Metias' murder. Day is from a poor part of the nation. Basically, he's kind of a vigilante trying to covertly take care of his family - getting medication, food and other goods - whilst eluding the authorities. The only person who knows Day's true identity - and the fact that he's alive - is his older brother. This boy is brilliant, I kid you not. Though he hasn't had the same rigorous training as June, he's just as, if not more, kick-butt as she is. He has some serious skills, people. I mean think about it... he's only fifteen! Kids in this dystopian world have to grow up fast, if they get a chance to grow up at all.
When June and Day finally meet, the two have undeniable chemistry that doesn't seem rushed or fake. I think the author was really quite genius how she paced that. Their friendship is also helped by a great supporting character, Tess. Tess is like a little sister to Day and I was really fond of their friendship, too. She's super sweet and brave and I hope to see more of her. I enjoyed the scenes where these three characters where together, sizing one another up and trying to decide if they can be trusted. There are some other characters I could mention, but I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that the author has done an excellent job creating believable characters that you'll be rooting for or against.
There is a lot of action, suspense, intrigue, great shows of character and times of staggering sadness throughout, making this book one heck of a ride. Granted, it was a little predictable, but I didn't really mind that in the least. There are enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, so it's not too easy to guess what's going to happen. I can honestly say that some of the fatalities were absolutely shocking and heartbreaking. I hope in book two (Prodigy), the author shares more about how the Republic came to be. I was having a hard time imagining how their world could have come from ours, so it will be interesting if that's explained.
Overall, Legend is a spectacular debut novel from a very promising author. I can't wait to read the sequel and get lost in the adventures of Day and June once again. A definite must read!
A favorite quote: "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... You try to walk in the light."