THE YOUNG ELITES
I WENT INTO THIS HAVING NO IDEA it was a story starring a villain. I assumed The Young Elites was about your standard secret society with powers that rises up against the tyrannical government. And originally, it would have been. Lu talks in the afterward about how the story followed a generic heroic rebel guy in the first drafts. However, that story wasn’t working. Her agent remarked upon a dark and aloof secondary character named Adelina, who seemed to have more of a story to tell. And just like that, Lu made the smart decision to throw fantasy conventionality out of the window. This book was going to be about a tragic and abused heroine’s descent into infamy, it was going to be full of twists, it was going to be dark.
There have been too many times where I’ve read about a character who has an awesome superpower, but they are too noble or too nice to use it. Adelina uses her power, the ability to create illusions, and it is devilishly fun to read about. I also enjoyed how Lu created the sense of isolation Adelina feels within the superpower secret society: the Young Elites. She feels held at a distance or treated mistrustfully because of her powers and the results of her test, which foretell she is prone to violence.
Another plus was the romance, which Lu does another twist with. Again, I was bracing myself for angst and sappiness that would destroy the plot, but Lu avoids this with a horrific choice made in the climax. Loved it, and I personally hope what happened can’t be undone (such is the way of life muahahaha).
Okay to stop being so dramatic: loved the atmosphere, enjoyed Adelina’s descent and her relationship with her sister, but I really take issue with the name of their rebel group: The Young Elites. Does that convey people of all classes and social backgrounds who developed special abilities because of a plague to you? Does it enhance the book’s dark atmosphere? No. In fact, the title was the reason I was hesitant to read in the first place, because it seemed light and generic. This rebel group who works against the monarchy is often referred to as “Daggers,” which is better, but still pretty bland. The world-building suffered for me because I was pretty confused about what “The Young Elites,” the principal name of the starring secret society, was supposed to mean. A more unique group name would have made this series really stand out from others going forward.
My overall recommendation? Ignore the lack of creative names and pick up the book. The storyline is interesting, it puts twists on traditional fantasy conventions, and it has a diverse range of characters in social standing, race, and sexual orientation. The number one reason I want to continue this series is because Lu gave her characters awesome, dangerous powers and then had them use them. This makes me believe that in future installments, she won’t shy away from the tough moral choices. She’ll go there.
Recommended for fans of: Julie Kagawa, Susan Ee, Zoraida Córdova
Upcoming Book Review: Silvern by Christina Farley