The short: 4/5 ✦. A fascinating spin on teenagers with powers, both due to the Renaissance-esque setting and having the “bad one” be the main character.
I had no expectations for this book besides mild intrigue at so many people raving about it everywhere. I actually looked it up awhile ago, and it didn’t peak my interest then. So this was more of a curiosity reading, similar to Throne of Glass and Snow Like Ashes, just to see what the hype was about.
And it does pretty much deserves it.
The Young Elites is a relatively fast-paced read (one sitting, for me), and I think I may have been bored with parts of it if I had taken a break, but the prose style kept the pace moving along at a fair clip. (The setting of a vaguely Renaissance Italy is particularly inspired, though, and I loved it.) There’s a great deal of emotional introspection and exploring of feelings and such, which is fine but a bit repetitive after awhile. What made all that interesting was the aversion of those feelings – usually, the main character is struggling to hide “darkness” within them, to find their light. Here, Adelina is trying to bring it out, to feed upon it for her illusion powers. So our YA heroine is actually a villain – or rather, a villain-to-be. She thinks she can’t let hate and fear take over her because it’s “bad,” but actually, she really, really wants to. It was almost a little frustrating to see her do something amazingly dark and then regret it immediately. Of course, in real life, I’d be much more like (the amazing) Raffaele and encourage the more positive aspects of her personality, but in this universe? It’s almost like a video game, like Mass Effect or something, where your choices decide on how the other characters treat you. Good or bad? Blue or red? For Adelina, you want her to be bad.
The powers thing was both fascinating and confusing. I liked the explanation of the threads of life, but the gem situation threw me a little, especially when Adelina began using it as an excuse for how she felt, especially in terms of passion. There is actually very little romancey stuff in this book, and what there is seemed less like love and more like lust and two similar people taking advantage of each other’s desires. And no one is a hero in this novel; they all have agendas, and no one should be trusted. Despite that, I was heavily annoyed with Adelina keeping secrets, however justified, because it’s a tired trope and lack of communication always kills.
I think that’s how I’d sum up The Young Elites in total: fascinating but frustrating – but in the best possible way. Characters that make me feel and a plot that makes me want more is always good, and the way it was done here is quite refreshing. I want a villain main character, and Adelina is one who has been hurt and used and deserves both a hug and the freedom to go shrieking out in the night to kill everyone who has wronged her. It takes a little while for her to get to that point (there’s a lot of back and forth, back and forth . . .), but I think that’s what the second book is about: her finally embracing the darkness within.
I can’t wait.
Header image: The Young Elites by Marie Lu, published October 7th 2014 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.