Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Title: The Young Elites
Series: The Young Elites #1
Author: Marie Lu
Published: October 7, Putnum (Penguin Teen)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

The Young Elites had me utterly captivated! From beginning to end it was one of the most unique, complex, and interesting books I have read in a really long time. From the characters, to the world, to the plot it was truly fantastic and I loved it!

The thing that first struck me about this book was the world. When the book began I wasn't sure if it was more of a dystopian novel or if it was more of a High Fantasy. It definitely had elements of both with a lot of political intrigue, a disease that changed society, and teens with powers. Speaking of those powers, the magical system here was incredibly unique. While it was supernatural in origin it was rooted in logical with each power being specific to the wielder and their particular nature. I loved learning about everyone's power and seeing the characters learn and experiment with them. And while I did feel like there was a bit of info-dumping or just a convenient way of showing off the individual powers of the characters, I'm going to cut this book a little slack because it didn't take me out of the story completely.

Or do, your call, whatevs!
What drew me into this story, and kept me captivated despite the info-dumping, however was the characters. Every last one of these characters was complicated and ruthless! I have never read a book where the heroes are just as hardcore and evil as the villains. They were all the dubious kinds of characters that I love and on the spectrum of good and evil they fall more towards the latter end of things. Adelina in particular was a fantastic protagonist for this kind of story. She is dark and dramatic with a tortured past that has made her that way. But that is also what makes her so compelling. I think what was the most interesting thing about Adelina is how despite being told over and over again that she is evil and not to be trusted, she did not come off that way to me. Throughout most of the book I kept thinking that she isn't really that bad and I was waiting for her to become as villainous as she is painted. But Adelina's Hero's Journey in The Young Elites was more about becoming evil. And while this is a villain's origin story but throughout it all, Marie Lu still makes her sympathetic and dare I say, likable?

Not to mention that the book was also full of amazing secondary characters that are just as compelling and ruthless. Teren was a spectacular antagonist for this story and was truly diabolical. Like he is officially on my list of villains that I love to hate! Meanwhile The Daggers were also great characters. I particularly like Enzo, who is a great leader and romantic lead, and Raffaelle, who may be my favorite character for how complicated he is and shipping feels. And Adelina's family was also really compelling especially her sister Violetta. And for the first time I really loved being able to see the book from the perspectives of these character, if only briefly. It added to the complexities of their characters. Being able to see into their heads made them darker and even more intense. It also added a level of dramatic irony and made them seem contrary to their actions and how Adelina viewed them.  I'm usually complaining about this but in The Young Elites it really worked.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about this book, however, was the plot development. The first quarter of the book was a lot of exposition and world-building. At this stage of the book it was much more character-driven, we were getting to know everything and empathizing with the characters. And when we develop am attachment to them the plot exploded! And from then on it was non-stop action and adventure. It sounds like a weird thing to say but the plot development was incredibly purposeful and thoughtful. Every action of the characters and every moment intentionally led to the thrilling climax of the book and when you sit down and think about it, you can logically draw the cause and effect. I'm not sure I've ever read a book where that was so clear, and I really enjoyed it. But as logical as it was in that respect the plot was also incredibly outrageous! This book is full of surprises, twists, and big reveals that I didn't see coming. I found myself on the edge of my seat, with my mouth agape, and bursting into tears at the unexpected WTF moments.

It was without a doubt an emotional roller coaster and I'm still not entirely over it three days later. I can't believe that this is only the first book in the series. It had feels, big reveals, and surprises that usually don't occur until the last book in a trilogy. Maybe that's why this is one of my favorite first books ever and one of my best books of the year.

I give The Young Elites by Marie Lu 9.5 (really more like 9.8) out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY, BUY, BUY! If you are a fan of Marie Lu, Dysopia, High Fantasy, and/or villain stories than you need this book in your life. Or if you are looking for a YA unlike anything you have ever read then check this book out. Give this book as a gift to that person in your life who is all "isn't YA just blah blah blah." This book is not for the faint of heart though. Be ready for the feels and a thrilling adventure!


  1. I looooooove that this is a book without truly good heroes. Adelina's journey is going to be crazy awesome. And I'm excited to see more of Teren because he actually terrifies me. *shudders* I love it.

    PS. Your "impaled" gif is on point. >__>

    1. Me too Nikki, me too. It was so refreshing that no one in this book is truly good or even truly evil. As terrible as Teren is (and yes he terrifies me too) I feel like he too has some redeeming qualities. I'm really excited to see how they all develop in this series.

  2. Love the giffage here Cassi!! I have to read this soon. It stares at me from my nightstand all the time!

    1. Thanks Britt! The Frozen gifs felt appropriate and the book could have used some Olaf comic relief. That's not a bad thing, I loved it, but it's super dark!

  3. You know, I don't think I've ever seen a negative review for this book among the blogs I regularly follow. Somehow I still haven't read it though... I definitely need to pick this up! I love the gifs you chose for this, by the way! Haha!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. You should definitely pick it up! I loved it, one of my favorite books of the year. It had great elements of fantasy and dystopia but was also unique and inventive. I wholeheartedly recommend!