“The Young Elites” is a theme park ride without the amusement

Emily Schulz, Staff Writer

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Reading is like going to an amusement park, and “The Young Elites” by Marie Lu is the new attraction. I waited countless hours in line, eager to board. When the time finally came, my premeditated excitement was so empowering that I barely registered what was going on.TheYoungElites

The ride stunk.

I hadn’t gone upside down once, it didn’t knock the breath out of me, and I felt like I’d ridden that same exact ride hundreds of times before.

But then when I think it’s over, I see where the tracks lead us back to the loading dock, the tracks unhinge, the cart speeds forward, and I’m thrown into a black pit I didn’t even know was there. After five minutes of utter chaos I come back into the sunlight with my breath knocked out of me, hair swept from my face, and my cheeks flushed a bright pink. Every person on that ride is thinking the same thing: What just happened?

This is what reading “The Young Elites” is like. In the past, I have had my doubts when it comes to an author’s second attempt at a trilogy after their first bestseller. Marie Lu’s first book trilogy, “Legend,” was amazing. That was a roller coaster that I have never experienced before. That’s why I didn’t think twice before buying her new novel.

Despite my blunt disregard for “The Young Elites,” at first, it had a few high points. For example, the main character, Adelina Amouteru, has the typical problems of a fictional heroine- her mom is dead, her home life is abusive, she is overlooked and there’s a prince. Unlike every other storybook princess, Adelina only has one eye. Although her beauty is still seen through the deformity of her face, Adelina came down with a plague running through her country that killed all adults and left the children alive but scarred. Because of her illness, she develops an infection in her eye, which the doctor then had to remove. In addition to the mutilation running down her face, the fever turned her hair silver to completely label her as a malfetto or, “marked,” an allusion to the moniker given to Jewish people in Germany during the social economic crisis after WWII: someone to blame for the country’s misfortune and poor leadership. In the story, these malfetto children were once the subject of pity but have since started to accumulate unnatural powers; they can harness the world’s natural energy.

There is a group of malfettos called The Young Elites (no plot twist there) that have come together to overthrow the king who is sabotaging the country with his own incompetence. Adelina is saved by the Young Elites when they discover that she has powers to control one’s perception of the world. She can create images that aren’t there, senses that aren’t actually being felt. In this group she meets many others like her but Adelina’s history remains a scar none of her new found allies bear.

No matter how far she goes, she cannot outrun her past. When confronted with her struggles- a violent father who’s ready to sell her to the highest bidder, a younger sister who got to keep her beauty and remains the sole receiver of her father’s affection, and the whole world telling her that she is not wanted- it seems to be too much for Adelina to endure. Adelina only wants to be accepted and loved for who she is and yet she continually finds herself being used in ways that benefit anyone but her.

As readers, we’ve seen time and time again an instance which the main character overcomes her challenges and has some kind of redemption. Can there be redemption for a girl who has been conditioned by her father since childhood to except her anger, embellish her hatred, and isolate herself from love? In this trilogy’s first novel it is not clear if there even is a “good guy,” let alone a hero. No spoilers here but Adelina’s transformation is unlike any YA fiction main character has ever gone through. Adelina’s unique perspective was a pleasant surprise amidst all the Katniss Everdeens and Tris Priors.  It’s as if  Lu just walked around a quiet town for a few days, then dropped an atomic bomb on it and left.

I may have initially thought that this book was a cookie cutter YA dystopia but I was very wrong. There are many things I would wish was done differently in regards to character depth and plot content, but I am sure of one thing: I cannot wait for the second book to come out.

 

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