Legend (Legend, #1) by Marie Lu
Published by Putnam Juvenile on November 29, 2011
Genres: young adult, dystopian fiction, young adult romance, science fiction
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Indiebound
I’ll start this off with a bad pun by saying that, as far as dystopian novels go, this book was definitely a legend among my friends and the reviewers I follow on Goodreads. Out of all the dystopian books on the market, a considerable amount of people hailed this novel as different and brilliant take on the whole “totalitarian government” scenario.
So, when I finally found it at my library (which usually has sequels to books I want to read and not the actual books themselves), I knew I needed to check it out.
I finished Legend in two days, and I’m a little confused about the hype. While I liked the book overall, I didn’t feel it was anything special when compared to the other books in its genre–which is a shame, because it had the potential to be something newer and more exciting than what it actually was. Allow me to explain.
Perhaps it’s because I’m slogging through edits on my own manuscript and my inner editor is on the prowl, but I think I was a more critical reader than normal while reading this book. There were a few things, in particular, which bothered me:
This was the area that I felt needed the most work. While it was intriguing to explore Lu’s Republic with June and Day, I found myself asking two questions: Why? How? There are “plagues” in Los Angeles and the city in half submerged in water. How did that happen? How did the plagues get there, and where did they originate? Why are Trials so important, and how did they come into existence? How did society morph from that of the United States, a nation which strongly emphasizes freedom, liberty, and choice, into a restrictive government run by the military? What is military school like? What caused the financial gap between the richer and poorer sectors, and what caused the sectors to form, anyway?
These are just some of the questions I had while reading. Ms. Lu’s idea of placing Los Angeles under the rule of a military nation was intriguing, I found myself wanting to know more about the world and its government, and feeling that knowing more about the Republic would make it a more memorable fictional society. What makes dystopian novels impactful and frightening is that the societies they portray could easily exist in real life, if certain aspects of real-life society were taken to extremes.
However, I didn’t find that was the case here; I wasn’t able to draw parallels to issues in modern society while reading about the Republic and its dysfunctional, paranoid state. As a result, I wasn’t able to see the transition from modern US government to the controlling, militarized Republic, and, instead of it feeling believable, I actually had to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the book.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about June and Day and their adventures. Both had dilemmas I could sympathize with and goals I could root for. I felt the way each grieved over the loss of loved ones was believable and something rarely seen in YA literature, especially in this genre. Day’s goals and weaknesses were consistent throughout the story, which in turn helped to create a consistent character. I also liked his use of slang; it gave him a unique personality and helped me differentiate between narrators (as if the change in font weren’t obvious enough).
On that note, June and Day always read like two separate characters to me, even though there were some instances where they seemed to be rather unrealistically on the same (metaphorical) page, or thinking/discovering the same things around the same time as the other person did. This made the plot seem a little too convenient at times, and I believe miscommunication on their parts would have added both to the plot and to the development of their separate characters.
But here’s what really bugged me: I just can’t see June and Day as being fifteen. They read like sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds. I don’t know anyone who could possibly be as talented or intelligence as they are at their age, which was another instance of suspension of disbelief for me. This led right into…
I thought June and Day made a good couple, but I also thought it was highly unrealistic that two fifteen-year-olds could be in such a committed, deeply-trusting relationship at their age, especially after knowing each other for only a month. Again, most fifteen-year-olds I know aren’t mature–or selfless–enough to make the kinds of decisions and sacrifices they made for each other. It felt a little like insta-love, which made it somewhat difficult for me to buy into the romance initially.
Overall, I liked this book, even though I had some issues with it. While it wasn’t perfect, it was a quick (and somewhat addicting read). If you’re more comfortable with suspending your disbelief than I am, consider checking this one out. A fun, fast dystopian read, if not a bit underdeveloped.