I picked up Legend by Marie Lu on Saturday night, read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and then picked it up again Sunday morning and read to the finish. Yes, it’s one of those books where the action is so constant and fast-paced, and the plot so compelling, you just can’t put it down and can’t wait to find out what happens. Kids are going to love this book.
The book takes place in a dystopian future, in Los Angeles. The United States has dissolved to become two warring territories, the Republic and the Colonies. The narration switches back and forth between June, a wealthy 15-year-old prodigy and member of the Republic military, and Day, also fifteen, who is from the slums and is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. When June’s brother Metias is murdered, and Day is the prime suspect for the murder, she decides to hunt him down to get her revenge. In the process, Day and June both discover disturbing things about the Republic and surprising things about each other.
There is definitely a fair amount of violence in this book, but of a milder variety than the Hunger Games trilogy. There is romance, but aside from some “hard kissing,” there is nothing explicit. I can tell you that, as a school librarian who loves to be able to recommend books freely to kids without having to worry a lot about content, I breathed many sighs of relief as I read this book. There were places where other writers might have gotten more explicit when it really wasn’t needed, but Lu never did that. The horror of the actions of government and the romantic tension are both completely evident without so many of the details that would be too much for the middle school readers who are drawn to this kind of story. (Note: There are definitely many young middle school readers who would be upset by the violence in this book, but for ones who are not sensitive to it and are seeking it out, this is a better choice in my opinion than something like The Hunger Games. We have been experiencing some high demand from 5th and 6th graders for these kinds of books, and within that genre, this is a relatively tame offering. Emphasis on relatively, though, because there are a few scenes that are pretty brutal in terms of the violence, and I really would recommend this book more for the older middle schoolers and high schoolers.)
Another reason to be aware of this book: there’s going to be a movie, and if it’s at all good, it’s going to be popular. This book is so visual and exhilarating, I really cannot wait to see it on the screen, assuming it is well done. I don’t typically feel that way because I want to preserve my own internal vision of the book, but in this case, it’s just the right kind of book to be made into a film. I also feel like the ending sets us up for more books, and I definitely look forward to seeing a next installment.
Update: This went over very well in my classes this morning (I read the third chapter to them). Two boys had already read the book and raved about it; it’s always nice to hear that actual kids have enjoyed the book!