Honest and lively YA book reviews
So you know when you're really looking forward to eating potato salad, and you saved it in the fridge for days and you can't stop thinking about it and you're imagining taking a bite and there's chives, and mayonnaise and creamy potato goodness and you just know that it's gonna make a really sucky day feel a whole lot better, like nothing else on earth will fill that void in your heart except potato salad right now, I mean it's the only thing that will cure this grey haze you've been wandering around in for the past few days and you have never been so sure of anything in your life than that potato salad is going to lift that pressure that's been heaped on your shoulders, there's literally no other fix than sitting down with a fork and that pot of potato salad and just letting it give you a big savoury, comforting hug. You know that feeling right?! Well sure maybe it's not potato salad, but just go ahead and substitute your favourite comfort food and you'll get an idea of the feeling I'm trying to remind you of here. Well now picture this: your darling hubby ate your goddam potato salad. He just ate it. With no ceremony I imagine. With no appreciation for what that potato salad means to you. Urgh - I bet he ate it standing over the damn sink or some other similar insult to potato salad/comfort foods everywhere. That potato salad deserved more.
And so did I.
I feel the same way about my stolen potato salad/happiness that I do about Legend by Marie Lu: bitterly disappointed and a little bit betrayed.
The back cover promised me that Legend was "based on a retelling of Les Miserables". Uhm ..... Really?! Where?! When?! I tried to shoehorn Legend into the story of Les Miserables but I just can't make it fit. Aside from Day have a somewhat passing similarity to Valjean, I'm really not seeing it. Maybe I missed something along the way, but I know Les Miserables fairly well, it being the only musical I can tolerate relatively happily, and I'm just having a hard time drawing parallels here.
So the actual story goes that the United States is divided and at war, the west being ruled most un-democratically by the Republic, a cruel and unjust government who have divided their society into a caste system run by an elite few, oppressing the majority by subjecting them to eternal poverty and hardship in order to maintain control. June, from the Republic's richest district is the military's 15 year old prodigy; Day from the slums is the country's most wanted 15 year old criminal. The two are thrown together when June's older brother is murdered, with Day as the prime suspect. Lots of leaping around, staring into each other's eyes, and staggering around clutching gunshot wounds ensues as the Republic tighten their grip on the citizens and Day and June uncover secrets that reveal the extent of their governments cruelty and control.
Yeah, I thought I would highlight the fact that these kids are 15 years old and yet June is an officer for the Republic's military and Day has apparently committed countless crimes against the state, including destroying some valuable airplanes destined for the frontline of the war that's vaguely going on in the background. I feel like the author missed the mark when decided the ages of her main characters. Having them as a couple of 15 year olds just doesn't work for me. It makes their antics entirely unbelievable. I mean, Day is swanning about threatening people in the goddam street, he's been headhunted by the Republic's enemy - the Patriots, and he's just so fucking cocky. I just can't believe that the other supporting characters take him seriously. I mean, I couldn't take him seriously. This dumbass, irritating kid thinking he's something. And realistically, if we are to believe all the shenanigans he's been involved with, like petrol bombing the police station and whatnot, then we'd have to stretch our imaginations to breaking point to accept that Day began this life of crime at the grand old age of 10 years old. C'mon now, Ms Lu. That's really pushing it.
Of course we're also expected to believe that these kids are fucking superheroes. Yes, really. There's no other way to explain their capabilities, which are bordering on ludicrous. Like scaling the wall of a sky-scraper, for like, 16 stories. And just literally leaping from third floor windows and then just running away. I mean, there's actual dodging bullets, swinging from ceiling beams despite nursing gunshot wounds to the leg and arm, wandering the streets with an open stab wound and so many more. There's no other explanation other than super powers being at play here. No-one is this invincible.
Of course both June and Day possess the same amazing speshul super powers because, let's face it - they're the same person. Marie Lu said in an interview: "in the original version of "Legend" that I first started, June was actually a boy, but she changed to a girl after my boyfriend and I had a conversation in the car, and he was like, "It'd be much more interesting if she was a girl." So now I run everything by him"
(I'm going to leave aside the fact the Marie Lu didn't stick to her guns and write June as a boy, instead being swayed into making a huge plot decision which changes the tone of the entire book by adding in a really lame instalove angle, and takes away completely from the idea of creating a retelling of Les Miserables as leaving June a boy would have created a character equivalent of Javier, after a bit of a chat with her boyfriend in the goddam car. Way to go for pissing on the whole basic concept of the fucking story Mr Boyfriend. But no, I'm leaving that blunder alone for now or else I'm really gonna start hatin')
Well at least by changing June into a girl, the author provides the one and only stark difference between them: gender. Well, heads up Ms Lu - this isn't enough!! Day and June have the same thought process, speech patterns and attitudes. There is no differentiation between these two, even Day knows it, pointing out that June is basically the female version of him. When even one of your own characters recognises this flaw, you know you've got a problem on your hands.
And duh, Day and June fall in love!! C'mon guys, this is YA after all. Everyone falls in love, and in this instance guy falls for his female clone. Aww. Sweet.
Nope. Can't do it. I hate this aspect of Legend. It's epically lame. These two don't even know each other. I mean, Day has known June all of five minutes and he's already thinking about kissing her. What?! And June is working an undercover mission searching for her brother's murderer and instead spends the whole time making eyes at who she thinks is a random guy who yanked her out of a fight. She totally loses sight of why she's even out there on the streets. Initially she doesn't realise that Day is the boy she is looking for. Fine, she doesn't know what the murder suspect looks like so fair enough. But she never even asks Day if he knows of the guy she's trying to track down. Instead she's blinded by her tru lurve, and only stumbled upon the truth by leaping to a massive assumption about some pendant. Yeah. It was bad.
The plague was a kinda cool plot line. But it wasn't taken very seriously. And when the big secret was revealed it was a total anticlimax due to the massive hints that had been dropped almost constantly from nearly the start of the book. For some reason Marie Lu felt the need to beat the reader over the head with her plot idea. Err hello!! We're not idiots!! It's okay, we'll get it. We don't need all those goddam blatantly obvious clues all laid out for us, spelled out in capital letters. Jeez .....
And the end? Yeah big whoop. I was so fucking bored with the thing by then I just didn't give a damn. Not a single damn. For a book touted as action packed, and a page turner wow this is dull. The story moves incredibly slowly because there's actually not much story to tell. We could have grasped the plot and still have room for details in about twenty pages. At least it actually wasn't very long. I was close to chewing at my own arm just to have something to do. What's happening to these books supposedly about adventure and action?! They're all morphing into some dumb wafer-thin tale of tru lurve in the face of adversity. Because that's another problem I have with Legend - it's incredibly generic. There's nothing stand out about it as it bobs in an ocean of other unbelievably similar YA novels. I don't understand exactly how they market these things - why is this series so prevalent?! Everyone seems to love it!! Am I the odd one out?! A picky-bitter-freak, so twisted and sour I can't like anything?! I just don't get it. But the reality is there's absolutely nothing about Legend to set it apart from all the other flotsam drifting out there. Nothing. I was expecting something fresh and instead I got something stale. Disappointing.
But .... I gave it two stars?! What?! Yeah, but compared to other YA that I've given one star to, Legend doesn't deserve the same treatment. It wasn't offensive, the writing style was basic but solid, and despite the lack of character variation, the personality of the two characters was stomach-able, the villains were menacing enough. It was just so blah. Fine is probably the best description. And fine is a really lame adjective. I want to feel a bit more of a reaction when I'm reading. I want to feel engaged and drawn into the story, not fucking slumped there with Zs in a speech bubble above my head. *Sigh*
Ciao for now my friends!!