Written by: Marie Lu
Release Date: October 7th 2014
Pages: 355, Hardcover
Series: The Young Elites, 1
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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.
Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.
Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
The second I read the excerpt of The Young Elites that Marie Lu released, I knew I absolutely needed to read this book. A world based on Renaissance Italy? Upsetting sister relationships? A complex female anti-hero who progressively becomes darker and darker as the book goes on? Written by the author of the excellent Legend trilogy? Sign me up.
Although it wasn’t without its problems, I was very happy with The Young Elites. I plan to talk about Adelina more in the “What Worked” portion of the review, but I found her fascinating and so distinct from most YA protagonists. The settings were beautiful, though I do hope that in the future Marie Lu develops her world on a larger scale; we didn’t get much here beyond three countries obviously based on Italy, Ireland, and…India, I think? The writing style flowed very well, and I enjoyed the author’s descriptions. The book was full of emotional intensity, particularly in the beginning and in the end.
I was particularly impressed by a certain Thing That Happened at the end of the book. I won’t say what in case of spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you can probably guess. I was not expecting Marie Lu to go there, especially not in the first book, and I will be very disappointed if it’s reversed in future books.
My feelings about The Young Elites can actually be summed up by lyrics a song Marie Lu has said was on her playlist for the book: “This will never end ’cause I want more / More, give me more, give me more.” This is meant partially as a criticism; I wanted more development of the world and the secondary characters. However, it is also a compliment. After finishing the book, I immediately wanted to read the next one, to see where Adelina’s arc goes in the future, to watch the story expand. Too bad the second book isn’t coming out for another year.
Other than Adelina and Teren, most of characters felt so flat. The personalities of most of the Elites could be summed up in one sentence, maximum. I have the basic sketches of Enzo and Rafaelle and Violetta and Lucent and Gemma. Now I want details. I realize that this is the first book, however, and I hope that the characters will start to feel more real as we learn more about them in future books.
The book was…sometimes not very good at subtlety. There is literally a scene where Rafaelle describes Adelina’s core personality traits, particularly the darker ones, according to her gemstone alignment. We did not need that! The story itself was enough to establish everything Rafaelle told us, and the scene felt so forced and unnatural.
The middle of the book was basically an extended training montage with some kissing and some morally-conflicted double-agenting thrown in, and most of it was not done in a particularly interesting way. As a result, the middle of the book lagged a lot.
As I mentioned before, Adelina was the strongest part of the book. Marie Lu did an excellent job developing her anger and bitterness at the way she’s treated by her father and the world, the allure of power and revenge, how much she enjoys being able to hurt people like others hurt her. She is fascinating and frightening, an explosion just waiting to happen. At the same time, I sympathized with Adelina. After constantly being abused and rejected, Adelina spends a good portion of the book looking for acceptance, and it does not go well. Sometimes I wanted to hug her, sometimes I was terrified of her, and most of the time I felt both of those things at once.
It’s not just Adelina, either. The Young Elites are willing to go into very morally grey areas to win their fight, and Teren, the closest thing The Young Elites has to an antagonist, has his own past and motivations and genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing. Everyone is a little bit terrible and I love it.
The dynamic between Adelina and Violetta also drew me in. Adelina simultaneously loves and protects Violetta and resents her and enjoys having power over her. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love Adelina’s complexity?) And Violetta turns out to have secrets of her own; she’s more than the innocent child who needs to be protected.
Finally, each chapter begins with a quote from a text from Adelina’s world. I loved this because it made the world feel richer and more real, and because the quotes themselves were usually beautiful.
Definitely! It’s not a perfect book, but it’s dark and intriguing and written from a very unique perspective. I am very optimistic about the rest of the series.