* with input from ParrishB, 6th grade, Mansfeld Middle School, Tucson
When I first mentioned Legend by Marie Lu in my personal and work social media feeds, I had to represent its dystopian goodness succinctly. I posted, “If Katniss and Gale were Romeo and Juliet: Legend by Lu.” I got that slightly wrong. Lu does love the Hunger Games so the feel fits, but it’s Les Miserables not Romeo and Juliet that inspired the relationship between Legend’s power couple. Whatever the case, I recommend buying your teen, your library, yourself this first book of a trilogy.
In Legend the lives of an infamous 15-year-old boy gone rogue and a revered 15-year-old girl tapped for military service collide. They live in what was once the western United States and is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war. Criminal Day and prodigy June have no reason to meet until June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. As Day races for his family’s survival, June seeks to avenge her brother’s death. The two uncover the truth of what brought them together and the lengths the Republic will go to keep its secrets.
Lu states in her FAQs that initially June started out as a boy. She based the Day/June relationship off ValJean/Javert in Les Miserables. Her boyfriend convinced her to reconsider saying, “You know, it’d be so much more interesting if the teen detective was a girl.” Lu agreed and so do I. Lu believes a romance between Day and June could have worked if they were both male with the same action and the same emotional arc but that a female June “helped round out the girls present in the story, because her personality was pretty unique among the female cast I had already lined up.”
I had to think on this. The other female characters in Legend are likewise strong, capable and intelligent–an army commander, a rebel street fighter, a skilled but vulnerable street urchin and a struggling single mother. It’s not just the romance or the supporting female cast. June’s gender enriches the book in other intangible ways that even 12-year-old boys can appreciate.
“Haha–I had way too much fun with Day’s hair, I think!” she writes. Before she became a full-time writer she was an artist for video game companies. She starts each story by first sketching out the characters and a few concepts of the world. “I’m an extremely visual person, so I tend to write that way as well. I do see the book playing out as a film in my head as I work on it, and then I write down what I see.”
I look forward to the movie so CBS and Temple Hill had better get it right. Also, I look forward to the second book in the series due out Fall 2012.
[This post was first published on March 07, 2012 at Bookmans.com.]