I’m a YA writer myself and am working on the second volume of a YA dystopian trilogy that began with Discarded Faces. Therefore I need to follow trends in my chosen field. That was how I found out about Legend, by Marie Lu.
The story takes place in Los Angeles, California. It is as thoroughly rooted in that city as Divergent is in Chicago, and both stories are written by natives of the city in question. California is a part of the Republic of America which comprises the western half of the United States, and is in a perpetual civil war with the easterners, the oddly named Colonies of America.
The future LA of a century from now is sharply divided between an affluent elite of high ranking military officers and a much larger group who have to scramble to survive. It’s not clear how much of a middle class exists. Nothing is said about the rest of the world, and the world-building overall is a bit sketchy. However, in works of this kind, the reader expects a broader picture to emerge as the rest of the trilogy unfolds, so I’m not too worried about this. I liked it well enough that I plan to read the second volume, Prodigy.
At an early age, every citizen of the Republic goes through a combination of IQ and physical endurance test called the Trials. June Iparis, a young military cadet and daughter of privilege, got a perfect score on hers. Those who flunk can’t go to college and are condemned to low-income jobs. This is the fate of Daniel Altan Wang who, under the alias Day, become the most wanted criminal in the Republic, stealing to feed his family. However, he sometimes attacks government installations, and that has made him a folk hero among the lower class, which hates the government for its oppressiveness and privileges.
The country is plagued by epidemics, the cure for which is out of the reach of the average citizen. Once one plague goes away, another pops up. While stealing medicine for his plague-infested family, Day gets into a fracas with a young military officer who happens to be June’s older brother, whom she adores. The brother dies, Day is blamed, and June is permitted to go after him because of her prodigious Trials scores.
It turns out the deaths of June’s brother, the earlier deaths of her parents, and the deadly succession of plagues are all related, in a way that undermines June’s confidence in the regime which she serves. I won’t spoil this ending, but I will say this book earns five stars.