The Young Elites by Marie Lu is one of the few stories that captured me with the text on its book jacket; though to be fair, I was only looking at it to buy as a Christmas present for Cheri.
The basic premise of the book is: there was a plague that marked children that survived and killed all adults who took ill. The marked children were considered bad luck in Adelina Amouteru’s home country, and unfortunately she is one of them. Some of these marked children developed powers after coming through the sickness and they are called ‘Young Elites.’
That is the basic of basic of the premise. And I wanted to add a disclaimer. If it ever seems like I give a higher rating to stories that I don’t describe as well in these reviews, it is purely because I’d rather you read the books than have me tell you about them and for books that I don’t like, I’d rather tell you about them than having you suffer through them.
So, yes, I am excited about this book.
Things I didn’t like about this book are the lack of romance exploration, the pitch, and the way the powers were explained.
Things I liked about this book was how lgbt relationships were handled, the darkness, the religion set up, and the believably.
It is one of the first books that I felt like there wasn’t enough exploration into the romantic aspect of the characters. Both characters are passionate and ambitious, as stated explicitly, and they have a heady attraction to each other. This was all expected from me; I didn’t even blink at the fact that it was sudden. The thing that bothered me is their passions and ambitions didn’t play off each other — there was no conflict between them. There was almost no point to their romance and I wanted there to be a point.
Next, the book is so much more than the pitch. It is pitched as the story of the villain, but I don’t feel like that is about that at all. The darkness that exists and permeates the book is one of human nature and is perfectly understandable. I don’t feel as though the main character is a villain at all, but rather a misunderstood individual that did the best under the circumstances she was thrust into. She goes on a complete journey where her every decision makes perfect sense (which, again, makes sense because she has an affinity to their god of logic). I dislike that it is pitched as the story of the villain because it gave me expectations that were completely shattered in the actual narrative.
The way the powers were explained seemed as though they were an aside to the story — it is barely explained. There is a sort of ‘testing’ ceremony where the main character sees which of the gods she has an affinity with, thus supposedly giving them a better idea of her powers. But then, it had nothing to do with her actual powers which was the ability to create illusions, it had more to do with her personality. She has an affinity to the darker emotions, but she also has affinities to passion and logic. Though it shows in her personality, it isn’t reflected in the way her powers are utilized.
I liked how lgbt relationships were handled. How were they handled? Like any other. It wasn’t a big deal when a boy side character professed his love for the same boy that Adelina liked. It isn’t a big deal when there’s a surprise lesbian relationship reveal at the end (except for the fact that one person in the relationship was royalty and expected to provide an heir which is kind of hard in a lesbian relationship). Cheri didn’t like the surprise lesbian relationship. I felt that since it feels like the first part of the series, I’m eager to see it come back into fruition and wish them well.
The darkness. What can I say about the darkness other than I loved every aspect of it. I loved that she reveled in others’ fear and disgust. I loved that she didn’t want to hurt, but got a sick thrill out of inducing fear. It was very much like the sickness that a bully would go through — hurting others to feel better about themselves — and it is handled in a very believable way. Though you may not like it, it is a real part of some people that is hard to admit to, but Lu embraced it and ran with it with this character.
Religion set ups are always interesting to me when they are done well. I don’t understand religions very well so it is easy to please me. It was interesting to see that the belief in the gods transcended country lines and that they represented some of the major personalities. Passion, logic, fear, ambition, love — it was all understandable and they were personified in the worship of different things. There were ceremonies that were adhered to and different traditions that made sense. I like it when there is a set up that makes sense because one of my pet peeves is when it doesn’t. So, great job.
The believability for me was completely there. The lore corresponded with the people. The world was believable and all characters acted in ways that made sense with the information given. I particularly appreciated that the main character questioned a lot of the same things that I had questions about and they were actually answered in the narrative. It was refreshing to come across a book that didn’t have me questioning something at every turn.
Overall, this story was great. I liked it immensely and couldn’t put it down once I started running with it. It moved fast and furious and the action didn’t slow down until it was over. Did I get the famed aftershock? Yes, but it wasn’t perfect. It was close though. Lots of diversity and representation. This one gets four out of five potatoes. Great job Marie Lu and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of your books.