Knock. Knock. Don’t make a single sound. Hide your loved ones. If you show any symptoms of the plague, run, hide, or seek help. But whatever you do, do not open that door. It’s the only thing preventing you and your loved ones from being separated. Please heed my advice; the Republic is out to get you.
Legend, the first of a trilogy by Marie Lu, is a brilliant, dystopian, coming-of-age novel for teenagers across the world. Receiving immediate recognition from news sources upon its publication, Lu’s first book centers around the two main characters, Day and June, 15-years-olds who believe in saving their people, the Republic. Trouble arises when June, the prodigy of the Republic, and Day, the most wanted criminal, cross paths upon the death of June’s brother, Metias. This book deserves praise for its amazing ability to fully immerse readers into the storyline. As Ridley Pearson mentioned in his New York Times book review, “Dystopia,” “A fine example of commercial fiction with razor-sharp plotting, depth of character and emotional arc, Legend doesn’t merely survive the hype, it deserves it.” Like Pearson says, this action packed book also fully enthralled me with its plethora of plot twists and realistic, well thought out, characters. The novel’s distinct features, such as a dual perspective, enhanced the storyline and made it stand out from other dystopian, action novels.
The first person point of view of the novel fully immersed me into the plot, allowing me to bond with the realistic characters after witnessing their thoughts and emotions. In addition, although the protagonists are presented as mature beyond their years, they still presented aspects of their 15-year-old selves. For example, they display traits such as being reckless and having limited vocabulary. This allowed me to better picture the characters in my mind. Lu also exemplifies aspects of Day’s and June’s backgrounds when they speak, often having them make decisions based on the opportunities they were given growing up. Growing up penniless in a dystopian Los Angeles, Day constantly steals in order to benefit his family. June, however, growing up rich and deemed a “prodigy,” acts egotistical in the beginning of the novel and boasts about her test scores. This, along with detailed descriptions, made the characters shockingly realistic and relatable.
This dystopian novel displays characteristics of other genres, including romance, action, adventure, and thriller. The forbidden romance and illegal stunts committed against the Republic had me eagerly waiting at the edge of my seat for more. Day mentions in Legend, “I hide behind the open fridge door as bullets ricochet off it … An alarm goes off as I burst through the stairwell door. There’s a chorus of clicks as all the doors in the stairwell lock from the inside. I’m trapped.” The action scenes were exhilarating for both myself and the characters. Marie Lu splendidly conveyed each mood, often making my heart skip beats during scenes in which Day and June encountered the Republic’s army. Captivating me from the very beginning, Lu’s ability to put me directly in the conflict is meritorious. Each page of the fantastic novel is vital to the plot and main conflict and often tugged at my heartstrings. Every plot twist in the book left me stunned.
This wondrous, thrilling novel is an absolute page turner for teenagers and adults alike. Its shockingly realistic scenes will place you in a destroyed Los Angeles, filled with military personnel and plague-ridden streets. So, if you ever join Day and June on one of their Republic raids, just do yourself a favor: wear body armor and stay discreet.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.