Bookish | The Young Elites by Marie Lu (Review)

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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.

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.

Personal Enjoyment: ●●○○○
Writing Quality: ●●●○○
Recommendability: ●●○○○

This review was delayed in posting– I originally wrote this in July right after completing this book, but decided to wait to cool down and reevaluate if it was truly reflective of my feelings on this book and not just “book bashing.” This book hit on several personal pet-peeves of mine, but I still recommend you check this one out for yourself.

This is the first book I have ever finished on audiobook, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in reading this. The female narrator was stellar, and the male narrators who took up the few parts where the point-of-view changed were interesting and easy to listen to as well. I have a short attention span, but I found myself hanging on to every word.

In fact, the male narrators were almost too-good. It really pointed out how seldomly the point-of-view switched from Adelina’s first person to that of Enzo or Teren, because I really wanted the point-of-view to switch over. The story really should have either stuck solely to Adelina, or switched between point-of-view characters more often.

This was my first Marie Lu book, her Legend trilogy having been published at a time when I was burned-out on dystopian novels. Altogether, I felt this book was overwhelmingly average. At several points I felt like whole paragraphs of description were ripped straight out of Every-YA-Book-Ever. It really made the story feel predictable and formulaic. I kept hoping this book would prove me wrong, deviate from its path, and become something more interesting and compelling, but it just trudged on. It wasn’t necessarily bad, and I may still consider picking up the Legend trilogy, but it wasn’t the most convincing case to continue reading her works, either.

As a minor point, the cover sort of led me to believe this was going to lean more toward dystopian X-Men than full-on fantasy. The title, “The Young Elites,” just doesn’t sound like it fits into a fantasy setting, and it made me cringe a little every time they said it. This has more to do with poor design and marketing than the actual book, though.

The protagonist, Adelina Amouteru, is a terrible person, straight up. She may have been abused as a child not a spoiler, but that isn’t a good reason for her back-and-forth between bloodthirsty monster and innocent, naive brat. She acts like she’s a little princess who can do no wrong, though at every turn she makes reckless and idiotic, or even downright malicious, decisions. Like many YA protagonists *cough* Tris from Divergent *cough*, all of her problems could have been solved if she would just stop lying to everyone. She kept digging herself into a deeper and deeper pit, all while wondering why no one trusted or liked her. I have no patience for pity-parties. I’m not asking for a perfect narrator, I’m asking for someone I can at least feel sympathetic towards.

When the main love interest was introduced, my interest was finally piqued… but only because he felt like a carbon copy of Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender. Dishonored, physically scarred, brooding, fire-bending prince fighting to reclaim his throne? That’s definitely familiar. Okay, but maybe I’m being unfair– after all, A:tLA is a huge influence on my own writing, and I think about Zuko on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Every person in this book, even though most of the characters are physically deformed as a product of the blood fever, are in some way still “striking” or “beautiful”. I’m calling BS. I’m so sick of YA necessitating flawless, beautiful characters; I truly thought this book would be different and not put such an emphasis on today’s outrageous beauty standards and would instead give us real people who come in a variety of shapes and sizes because what really matters is their goddamn personality or even their superpowers! Cover up Adelina’s missing eye and she’s breathtaking. Enzo puts a pair of gloves over his scarred hands. Raffaele’s only markings are two different colored eyes. So much for that crippling disease that left everyone physically deformed, eh? It really just made everyone accessorize better and get more shiny, voluptuous hair.

It also really bothered me that Adelina’s race/exoticism were a factor in why Enzo was attracted to her. It felt a little bit fetishized and made me a little queasy. I know most people wouldn’t notice this or react to it as strongly, but the “Main Character Looks Like His Dead Girlfriend” trope is a personal pet peeve of mine. I thought the scene where Raffaele makes Adelina over in exotic clothes of her mother’s ancestral heritage, even though she was raised as a Kenettran just like everyone else, was a little distressing and problematic. It’s wonderful to personally accept, embrace, and love your racial heritage and express that to the world; it’s just wrong when the majority forces it upon you to emphasize your Otherness.

In spite of my personal dislike, this book wasn’t exactly poorly written. It really was just average. The tropes are all the same, the setting and magic system tweaked just a little to make it stand out from a sea of other young adult fantasy books running the same formula. And while I didn’t enjoy this, I can see why other people would, especially those who don’t read young adult fantasy like it’s their job (i.e. me). The action scenes were compelling and easy to visualize. They also made up 75% of the book’s content, which kept me reading (listening).

The book’s epilogue was almost a complete 180-degree turn for me. It takes place in a neighboring country and follow an entirely different sort of princess. Finally, I found a character that intrigued me. That epilogue was more interesting to me than the entire rest of the book. It almost convinced me to carry on with the rest of the series! We will see.

Ultimately, while this book hit on a few too many personal pet peeves, I’m certain there are many people out there who would (and do!) love it. I still recommend you check this one out for yourself.

alecksis.

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4 thoughts on “Bookish | The Young Elites by Marie Lu (Review)

  1. This is a really well-written review. I didn’t want to read Young Elites because it sounded like so many other books out there and I want something new (The Pyramid Waltz, The Raven Boys, Thrall…). I don’t think I’ll waste my time: you’ve convinced me it’s just like every other YA, with problematic messages about looks and race thrown in. Ugh.

    Except for the Zuko part. *heart palpitations* Maybe she’ll write a book about just that character? Anyone who is like Zuko… *sigh* (Apropos of nothing, did you know the voice actor for Zuko thinks he and Katara should’ve ended up together? Which I TOTALLY agree with. The guy says he likes to imagine widow Katara and widower Zuko getting together at last in their old age…)

    Like

    1. I’m gonna say there’s a 0% probability of there being another book with his perspective… I love Dante Basco and knowing he is a Zutara shipper just makes me want to hug his face. Thank you! I worked hard on this one. I just wanted to be fair and not mean.

      Like

      1. It’s not mean 🙂 But I understand the fear. You don’t want to hurt/piss off an author or get that kind of rep when you work in the industry… I only bashed a book once, and only because it was so disappointing that I didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer through it.

        Like

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