Legend by Marie Lu
Synopsis by GoodReads:
“What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.”
This book is set in Los Angeles, CA, written from alternating viewpoints – one chapter from Day, and one chapter from June. I’m a fan of dystopian novels anyway, and I’ve heard lots of good things about this book. It’s been compared to the Hunger Games, but I can’t say that it grabbed me the same way. I did enjoy the book though! Day and June become characters you can believe in, and feel emotion for. Although Day is labeled as a wanted criminal, his crimes resemble Robin Hood. He steals from the rich (the government and military) for the poor. He gives them money, food, clothes and other items he is able to steal. He also sells things he “finds” to people who can afford them, and saves the money to take food, clothing and other necessities to his family. All but his oldest brother, John, believe him to be dead from being sent to a work camp after his failure to pass the Trials. Children of the Republic are tested when they turn 10 – they have to pass an interview and physical challenges as well as an intelligence test on a written exam. Only one person in record has ever “aced” the Trials test with a score of 1500 – June Iparis.
June and Day seem to be complete opposites – one a prodigy from a wealthy family, and one a failure, reduced to stealing to feed himself, sleeping in abandoned buildings, and hiding from the Republic military. Their paths cross in an unexpected way, and they are immediately drawn to each other. June is recovering from the loss of her beloved brother, Captain Maties Iparis, while Day is struggling to get enough money to buy a plague cure for his youngest brother, Eden. Their attraction is the beginning of a young romance.
As they each struggle to accomplish vastly different goals their paths continue to cross. June is searching for her brother’s killer, and eventually believes it to be Day. Day is struggling to feed and medicate his family, and learn the secrets of the Republic. Will they survive their repeated interactions? What is the Republic government hiding, and who does it affect? Who does it betray?
I enjoyed Legend and am looking forward to the 2013 release of Prodigy. I rate it a 3.5 out of 5.
Marie Lu started writing Legend, her debut novel, when she was only 14 years old. Here are some excerpts from her web page – questions and answers about her work.
How did you come up with LEGEND? One of the main characters in LEGEND, the boy criminal Day, has been in my imagination since I was 15. He started out as a teen rebel character in a fantasy novel I wrote in high school. I always had trouble thinking of a good rival or enemy for Day, though. I wanted someone who could match him. Then, one day in 2009, I was lying on the carpet in my living room (this is how I daydream), and the movie version of Les Miserables was on. The Jean Valjean vs. Javert concept started me thinking about Day, and the central idea for LEGEND came almost right away: Day vs. an equally sharp detective agent. I was so glad that I could bring Day back to life, because he’s a character very close to my heart.
- When is the sequel to LEGEND coming out? Legend is the first book of a trilogy. The second book is titled Prodigy, and comes out on Jan. 29, 2013!
- When did you start writing? I remember writing as early as 4 or 5 years old. When I was 5, I wrote a “book” (i.e. 10 sheets of notebook paper stapled together) about farm animals. I was always stapling together books of all shapes and sizes. Another time, when I was 7 or 8, I wrote out a bunch of short fairy tales about unicorns and cats, and stapled those together as well. I wrote my first “novel” (80 handwritten pages) when I was 11, a fantasy heavily influenced by Brian Jacques. I remember thinking about how to mass-produce that and bring it to the public. Little did I know there were publishers who did that …. somehow I thought every book at the library was magically distributed and printed by each individual author and delivered directly to the library. I started writing seriously at 14 when I finished my first official manuscript.
- I hear that June started out as a boy! How would the story have been different if that were the case? Yes, initially June started out as a boy because I was basing it off the ValJean/Javert relationship in Les Miserables, so that was the first thing that came to me. However, when I pitched this to my boyfriend, he immediately frowned and said, “You know, it’d be so much more interesting if the teen detective was a girl.” And all I could think was, “omg, that fits SO much better.” A lot of elements would probably have been the same–there still could’ve been a romance between the two leads either way, still the same action and the same emotional arc….but I think making June a girl added a strong female presence that was lacking from my original idea. I think she really helped round out the girls present in the story.
- Will LEGEND ever be a movie or TV show? I hope so! Currently CBS Films holds the film rights, with Temple Hill (Twilight) producing. I think it would make a cool movie–but then, I’m a little biased. I also think it’d make a great cartoon show along the lines of Avatar: The Last Airbender or Teen Titans, something for the 8-12 age group, about Day’s adventures as a boy fugitive before the events of LEGEND. (This is good news! I’d love to see CBS make Legend into a movie!)
Here is a link to the finalized cover art for Prodigy, as well as the exclusive first chapter on USA Today’s Book Buzz.