Legend by Marie Lu This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 7, 2016
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“Sometimes when they emerge, they mark a house by painting a big red X on the front door. No one enters or leaves the house after that - at least, not when anyone’s looking.” Plague runs rampant in a dystopian society under the iron fist of the cruel Republic. Legend, the first fascinating novel in a riveting trilogy by Marie Lu, follows fifteen-year-old protagonists Day and June in their different worlds as they fight to live.
Day is a legend, a criminal in the eyes of this future society’s government. June is a prodigy, beloved by them all. Yet, against the odds, they meet - and discover more about the Republic than they thought they ever would. Born into a poor family, Day struggled for survival every day, unlike June, who was born into wealth and privilege. Regardless, at ten, all children endure a Trial set by the Republic. It tests physical prowess and eloquence, leading to a long, happy life for those who pass, and prolonged death for those who fail. The rich hardly ever move down from their lavish houses while the poor stay in the plague-infested districts, always fearful of being marked for illness. Elements of humanity’s flaws are ever-present.
The book smoothly switches between June and Day’s perspectives, keeping in character for each one. We see both sides of the Republic: the cruel, manipulative one Day has experienced and the righteous, caring one that June knows. The antagonists of the story, who are portrayed as secretive and unsettling at the best of times, garner no sympathy from the reader. The word choice and sentence structure is selective and unique, painting a vivid image in the reader’s mind and clearly expressing changes in tone. Reminiscing on his mom, Day notes, “In my mind I conjure up a memory of her face, soft and beautiful and concerned, her eyes bright blue and her mouth rosy and smiling. My mother used to tuck me in, smoothing down my blankets and whispering a promise of good dreams.” June’s panic, Day’s sorrow, or whatever they may be feeling is felt by the reader, making this novel even more captivating.
Legend, a New York Times bestseller, is Marie Lu’s first published book. However, it’s brilliantly written, the opposite of what is expected of an author’s first novel. It has received praise and won numerous awards, among them the Truman Readers Award and the Golden Sower Award. A film adaptation by Temple Hill Entertainment and CBS Films is in the works. That’s something to be said for Lu’s hard work and persistence. She’s always written late into the night, even when she was young and getting published seemed an impossible dream. Her inspiration came from Les Misérables, which she had been watching when she wondered how the criminal and detective’s relationship would change in a more modern society - hence, Legend. The novel, which has Day and June pitted against each other, embodies that concept.
Lu masterfully crafts a tale of daring and betrayal, sprinkled with light romance. June and Day must sift through the lies they’ve been told since birth, unraveling their entire way of living. So take a deep breath, look around, and wonder about everything you know. What secrets are being kept from you? Like June and Day, maybe you’ll find out, or maybe not. Only Legend holds the answer to their predicament in an unforgettable story like no other.

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