Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Gonna Be Legendary!

A story as old as time. Two people, from opposite sides of town, who were never meant to know each other, let alone care about each other. And when they can't bare to let the other one go, they have to experience great sacrifice in order to be together. We have heard the story before, but that doesn't mean we don't want to hear it again in Marie Lu's Legend.

June is a prodigy. She is years younger than her classmates because she was moved forward so many times in school. Her perfect score on the Trial's is unheard of, and the Republic wants her to be their model soldier. Day is a criminal, according to the Republic. To the people he helps, he is a modern day Robin Hood. He steals from the evil, corrupt government and gives to the poor people caught in the crossfire of a war that would have been considered a civil war in times when the United States was one whole country. But Day is careful. No one knows what he looks like or who Day really is, including his family who thinks he is dead, and he never hurts anyone. All he wants is to level the playing field. When a desperate attempt to get plague cure from a heavily guarded hospital goes awry, he has to break his one rule- he has to wound a soldier to get away, but he makes sure not to kill him.

That soldier was June's brother Metias. He died that night. June has been enlisted to go under cover in the poor districts and see if she can find the elusive Day. She is all too happy to find the man who killed her brother. What she doesn't expect is to get caught in a paid fight, stabbed, and need to be saved by a mysterious but alluring boy. Day had no intention of saving her, but he couldn't help himself. Eventually June realizes who her saviour is, but not before he shares some very dangerous theories about what the Republic is really doing in the poor sectors, especially about the spread of each year's new plague. When Day is taken into custody, June can't help but think her brother must have known about this all. She begins digging through his journals, but she isn't ready for what she finds. June's whole world is turned upside down, but she can think of only one thing- saving Day.

Lu created a really interesting dystopia where the country we know has split in two. In that fight for land and power, they have made their citizens pawns. The Trials were a way to separate the weak from the strong. All kids have to go through the trials and their scores determine where they go from there- either to the labor camps if they fail, or to be a Republic officer if they do well. In fact, reading about the trials made me think about the SATs. The SATs have the ability to make or break a student's college applications. One test, one very biased, convoluted test can determine their futures. I have seen incredibly smart, intuitive, creative thinkers bomb that horrible test. Hopefully there is a college out there willing to "take a chance" on them despite those SAT scores, but you never know. Why do we use the SATs and GREs to measure people's worth and potential? Every person even remotely involved in education knows there are smart kids who don't test well and anyone who preps kids for the SAT hates the test with unbridled passion, so why is it still being used? Unfortunately I think it has something with our need to fit everyone into neat, predictable categories. But what do we know about neat, predictable categories when it comes to people? They don't exist! But I digress. I will continue to hate the SATs, but I will still administer it as I am supposed to, secretly hoping colleges will ban together to boycott its use. Hopefully it will happen someday!

So Lu's world, while fictionalized and exaggerated, isn't far from our own. Control and power are slippery slopes to terrifying times, as history has shown us time and time again. This would be a good book for any student who enjoys dystopias and other cautionary tales of what can happen when people are given too much power. It is appropriate for any middle school through high school student and uses average young adult caliber language. But remember something when you read it- if we all strive for conformity, we lose those amazing individuals who have given us all those comforts and toys we love so much!

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