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I admit, I absolutely love to read young adult fiction. But not just any YA fiction, good fiction. The likes of Harry Potter¬†(duh), His Dark Materials (amazing) and The Hunger Games (though I only thoroughly enjoyed the first novel), as opposed to the Twilight series and all of its copycats. Things that I can read over and over again and get something new out of the author’s work. And as it turns out, I’m not alone. Victoria Stiegel on Uloop made the same announcement only days earlier, and reported that most YA novels are purchased by people outside of the intended age demographic:

In September of this year, a new study was released which found that 55% of people who purchase YA lit (officially geared towards readers aged 12-17) are 18 or older. Not only that, the largest segment of YA purchasers, a full 28%, were aged 30-44. And lest you say “sure, but they’re buying them for their kids,” the study also found that 78% of adult YA purchasers said they were buying the books for themselves rather than for another recipient whose age might actually put them in YA’s target audience. Many of the respondents in the survey said that they often get recommendations of what YA books to read from their similarly-aged friends.

Just in case you were wondering, I am classifying the dystopian novel Legend by Marie Lu under the “good YA fiction” category.

What is Legend about?

Legend takes place in the flooded coast of Los Angeles, CA, in which there are two warring nations: The Republic of America and the Colonies of America. Mixed into this fight are the Patriots, a rebel group based in the Republic. The two main characters are fifteen-year-old’s June and Day.

June, who was born in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, is the Republic’s lauded prodigy who has been groomed for success since she scored an unprecendented perfect score in her Trial, the nation’s method to determine a child’s intelligence and physical prowess. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal, and was born into the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector.

There is no reason for the two to ever meet — that is, until June’s older brother Metias is murdered and Day is the prime suspect. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse that peels away the secrets of the warring nations.

What is my verdict on Legend?

I had my doubts beginning the novel; it’s one thing to write a good dystopian novel, but the trend of YA fiction has been pushing out subpar novels in that subcategory ever since The Hunger Games blew up. I am happy to write that I was taken with the gripping tale. Lu creates a world that is inventive and exciting, as well as two strong characters that add a compelling emotional arc to the character development and plot.

June is actually a strong female character; she holds her own, doesn’t need a man to save her (I can’t help but think of Twilight and the empty pod that is Bella Swan), and lives up to the nation’s hype as their glorified prodigy. Day has believable weaknesses that pushes the novel forward. I do believe that Day is the first Asian American male to ever make it as a leading role in a popular series (of course, this is a lofty statement, as Day is Half Mongolian-Half Russian AND I haven’t read every YA novel out there) — but that is an important characteristic to individuals like me (and other Asian Americans) who had had few strong characters with which we could identify.

I worried about Lu’s decision to split the POVs between the two main characters, but it actually breaks up the story beautifully and maintains a pace that keeps you hooked.

The ending of the first book (of a three-part series!) literally explodes. (Well, not literally.) I can’t describe it any other way. It actually had me scrambling to find the second book, Prodigy (which I luckily got an advance copy with!), so I could continue with the story.

Other Fun Facts

  • Author Marie Lu graduated from University of Southern California
  • Day had been a character Lu wanted to write about since she was 15.
  • June actually started off as a male character because Lu was inspired by the VlJean/Javert relationship in Les Miserables.
  • CBS Films bought the film rights to the series, so we may see this movie on screen! (Don’t eff it up, CBS Films!)

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am holding a giveaway tomorrow! Stay tuned if you want a FREE copy of Legend along with a limited edition Prodigy t-shirt!

Have you read Legend, Marie Lu’s debut novel?