The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) by Marie Lu
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on October 7, 2014
Genres: young adult, young adult romance, fantasy
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound
Oh, this was a disappointment. 😦
After reading the Legend Trilogy and being pleasantly surprised, I was looking forward to reading The Young Elites. Most of my Goodreads friends were hailing it as a game changer, especially when it came to our main character’s arc. A story from the perspective of a villain? Count me in.
However, several other Goodreads reviewers came away from The Young Elites unimpressed, saying the novel lacked originality, character depth, and heart. I should have listened to them more carefully before reading this book.
There are ways to make a fantasy world intriguing and different, but, in order to do this, you have to add depth to the world itself and its society. I never really felt I had a clear picture of Kenettra. Aside from some cameos of a magical creature (whose name I have already forgotten), a few scenes taking place during an annual festival, and some glossed-over mythology, I didn’t feel I knew that much about Adelina’s world by the time I finished this book. It had promising elements (especially with the mythological aspect; that was pretty cool), but these were never developed as well as they could or should have been.
Also, am I the only one really confused about how the blood fever works? IMO, if you’re going to create a disease, I’m going to need some scientific reasoning or explanation behind it. Heck, any reasoning at all would be great. But I felt that the blood fever’s side effects were random and not explained as well as they could have been.
Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters in this book. All of them seemed stiff and rather fake to me, unfortunately. The Young Elites seemed more like shadows on the all than like actual people, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them all that much. Teren also seemed like a walking cliche, the general who’s having an affair with the queen and doing bad things because she has him under her thumb and she’s evil. But what they’re doing is okay, because her husband doesn’t love her, anyway. And Teren would do anything for her because he loves her. (No joke. “I would/will do anything for you” is a quote in this book.) It’s already been done so many times before.
SPOILER: And couldn’t we have done something a little more original than making Teren a Young Elite and making Enzo and him former best friends turned enemies? Please?
However, the biggest disappointment for me was the main character, Adelina.
I was promised a complex, nuanced story about girl’s descent into villainy, but I felt Adelina’s plight was more of a sob story. Pretty much every villain cliche one could think of is here. Outcast? Check. Loved by one parent but hated and abused by the other? Check. Will do anything for her sweet, innocent, perfect younger sibling, who is always described as the wholesome person our hero(ine) will never be (ex. Prim from The Hunger Games, Paige from Angelfall, Gisa from Red Queen)? Yep, she’s in here, too; her name is Violetta.
Every time I read a flashback from Adelina’s childhood, it felt so manufactured and fake, like the author was trying to manipulate me into feeling sorry for her. (And normally, I empathize with characters very easily, but I couldn’t do that here.)
Yeah, no. I’ll form my own conclusions on that one, thanks.
Also, I hear some people talking about the intense romantic scenes between Adelina and Enzo. I’m really confused—and disappointed, because I’m sure I would have been shipping them if Adelina would have thrown less pity parties and Enzo would have been more developed than cardboard. Their so-called “romance” was stale, and left me feeling cold. SPOILER: Although, besides Raffaelle, he was one of the few characters I felt I could eventually grow to like, so I was pretty bummed when he was killed off.
And, of course, Adelina was the one who did it. Of course. Because everything bad that every happens is always her fault. Always.
In regards to the plot, there’s not really much to say. Nothing happens, really—or, at least, nothing I found myself invested in. Adelina struggles to develop her powers (much of which is skimmed over), she wavers between allegiance to the crown and the Elites, she makes some “unforgivable” mistakes, people hate her, she fumes. It’s a repeating cycle, and it all feels so contrived. The ending resolves nothing and leaves me with way more questions than answers. SPOILER: Also, what was the point of her spending the majority of the book with the Young Elites if they’re just going to kick her out, anyway? It kind of felt like a waste of time.
One star for the premise of writing about a villain main character, and half a star for the potential the world-building offered, which is still a pretty generous rating in and of itself. Don’t waste your time.