A premise that sounds like a dystopian Robin Hood? You didnt have to ask me twice if I wanted to read this. Marie Lu provides us with a solid dystopian read in her debut novel that, while not incredible, still proves to be very enjoyable.
LEGENDs strength lies in Lus writing. Written in alternating POVs, Days and Junes voices feel completely natural: both of them have genius-level intelligences, which shows in the way they approach and analyze situations (a great relief from those YA novels whose main characters claim to be smart but then they do or think the most idiotic things). LEGEND will appeal to readers who like their dystopian books endearingly unsentimental, in the way Katniss is a reluctant but still beloved hero. Both June and Day are like that: they are very focused on what needs to be done, and do not exhibit the types of thoughts or behavior that normal teenagers do.
This makes it believable that they live in a world where violence is part of the job description. This is no half-hearted dystopian world: the government does things that leave even me shocked and uncomfortable. LEGEND will surely become one of those books that censorship-happy critics target due to its darkness.
The trouble is, LEGENDs violence does feel a bit gratuitous. Its not that I have qualms about violence in YA fiction; I love The Hunger Games, after all. Its more that I still struggle to understand what purpose the violence in LEGEND serves, except to make the government as scary as possible. But the revelation that June and Day uncover about the government is rather anticlimactic, considering all the setup. I feel more scared by less violence-proven fictional dystopian governments, such as The Givers, than I did by LEGENDs over-the-top controlling government.
While I adored June and Day individually, I felt like their romance left something to be desired. Here, I suppose, is where their age shows, for their mutual attraction seemed to arise more out of the fact that they each find the other to be different than anyone theyve ever met and less due to an actual liking of one another. Still, I did like them individually, and thought they were pretty well developed in that regard. I had no problem with those two as the main characters, but perhaps if the book hadnt been sold to me with such a heavy emphasis on an epic romance I wouldve been more impressed.
So LEGEND is not perfect, but solid writing and two sympathetic main characters make it a cut above most other dystopian YA out there. Dystopian fans will surely want to keep this on their radar, though perhaps toning down your expectations a notch will make it a better read for you.