100-Character Breakdown: Stacked with an atypical protagonist, an engrossing plot, and beautifully intricate world building.
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: Putnam (October 2014)
In Marie Lu’s vivid The Young Elites, she creates an engrossing, high-stakes plot on the backdrop of wonderfully crafted world building. Sixteen-year-old Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever that ripped through Kenettra in her youth. Some survivors were left marked by the illness — a colored mark on skin, a change in hair color. Although these malfettos are persecuted by society, some of them, known as the Young Elites, develop strange powers. Adelina discovers her powers when she attempts to escape her abusive father’s home. She accidentally kills him, leading to her own execution. Thanks to her abilities — she can create vivid illusions — and the help of some Young Elites in the Dagger Society, she escapes death. This is just the beginning of her journey, however, as the Dagger Society teaches her to use her powers and she is caught in the political conflict threatening to tear their nation apart.
Adelina is not the traditional young adult protagonist. In part because of her powers, she finds herself in darkness, feeding on fear. Torn between those trying to use her for her powers, she reacts and develops in unpredictable yet fitting ways. Some of the other characters fit archetypes and have more predictable progression, but Adelina acts as an anchor that prevents those less original aspects from undermining the book’s impact. The darkness behind Adelina makes this novel all the more affecting and substantial. The plot is intriguing and full of depth in its mix of action, politics, and emotion. This all comes together in the beautiful portrait Lu creates of Kenettra — especially the city of Estenzia, where much of the novel takes place. Lu’s intricate and detailed writing builds a world as vivid as Adelina’s illusions must be as she begins to understand her powers. With a picturesque world torn by chaos and an excitingly troubled protagonist, The Young Elites is an engaging start to this series.