Book: The Young Elites
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
Published: 2014, Penguin Books
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.
Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was.
Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.
It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
I went into this book with little to no expectations; I’d seen a flux of artsy photos of its cover (probably in anticipation of the third book in the series being released in October) as well as some pretty jaw-dropping fan art, and I read some reviews, which were mostly mixed between love and hate for the series. After reading it, I found myself, unfortunately, on the disappointed side of things.
Now, I’m not one to avoid criticism. This review is going to be critical, because even though I had few expectations, the few I had were still dashed, and I want to talk about why. Let’s start from the end, shall we?
In the acknowledgements section at the end of the book, Lu writes, “I realized I didn’t want to write a hero’s journey; I wanted to tell a villain’s.”
Which, I mean, I am 100% in favour of. I always make my opinion of controversial characters and anti-heroes abundantly clear: they’re awesome, and probably the most authentic kind of fictional person you can run into.
Here’s the problem with this book: the characters are flat. It’s clear that the author intended for them to be complex and participate in the sort of grey-area morality issues that having an anti-hero as the MC always has the potential for. But it isn’t done right.
I mean honestly? I found the characters boring. I didn’t really care about any of them, and when certain situations arose, I was more “what the hell?!” than actually emotionally affected. The writing simply didn’t encompass my attention, and I felt detached from the characters and the story. I probably would’ve DNF’d it had it not been such a quick read (good bye, 12 hours of my life).
I mean, the plot was questionable at best. I understood the premise, and even admired it. I liked the attention payed to the social prejudice and emotional abuse of characters who were different, the struggle for power among the characters, the tense atmosphere that felt like civil war could’ve broken out at any moment. It all played very well with the historical undertones of the setting.
But at the same time, it seemed like random situations kept overwhelming the plot, like it was constantly being pushed back chapter after chapter until the book ended without much warning and I was left confused. There was little consistency, and I felt like more attention was placed on trying to ‘shock’ the reader than actually achieving any one goal. And there was so much talk of ‘darkness’ in this book, but I honestly thought most of it was pretty passive aggressive. I’ve read darker characters, and I’ve liked them more.
I also found most of the relationships felt superficial and forced, especially the romance. There was base attraction, maybe a hint of something seen in one another’s eyes, and then talk of ‘love’. *rolls eyes into oblivion*
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I kept thinking it would get better, and it just didn’t. I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book, even though I’ve heard it’s better than the first.
Have you read any of the books in The Young Elites series? Did you feel differently? I’d love to hear some other opinions on this one!
PS. Also – I know this is a stylistic choice, but did anyone else find the POV to be really weird? I mean, the MC’s chapters were in first person, present tense, and then when it switched to another character’s POV (marked by their name at the beginning of the chapter) it was third person, present tense. Did that confuse anyone else or is my disdain for first person/present tense narration just showing?