The Young Elites by Marie Lu
If you’ve ever read Game of Thrones (or watched an episode of the show), you know that it does not pull punches. Things are crazy and gory and borderline offensive practically all the time. But it works, because that is the world the characters live in, so you understand it and go with it. I wish The Young Elites took a page out of their book. I think the story could’ve worked very well, but frankly it felt a little too PG for my tastes.
That feels weird to say, because there are a lot of things about this book that aren’t PG whatsoever. There are some gruesome deaths. Some cruel characters. A good amount of the story takes place in a brothel. And even with all that, it still felt like it was meant for the younger spectrum of Young Adult.
I do have plenty of good things to say, though! To start, Lu has created quite an exciting world, one that comes with cool gods and goddesses, cool gems, cool hair, and a cool wardrobe. I thought the setting was pretty unique compared to other YA novels. I also appreciated the variety of characters. Adelina is a strong character who is far from perfect and does not immediately excel at everything (bonus points in my book). The storyline, in general, is also clever with a good sense of pacing throughout the novel. The main action doesn’t suffer from a deluge of unnecessary romance. However, these three categories are not without their faults.
Let’s start with the characters. They’re likable enough, but they all feel so…extreme. It made them a little less believable in some ways. There were also a few characters (Michel comes to mind), who weren’t given much depth at all, and were completely forgettable as a result. I also wasn’t very caught up in the romance that bloomed between Enzo and Adelina. It felt a little too typical, a little too bland. Their conversations were so stale, so I don’t understand where all the chemistry came from. I think the characters needed more depth, maybe some more faults, and a more exciting romance. Am I the only one who thinks something between Adelina and Teren would’ve been way cooler?
Then there’s the writing, the plot, the storyline, and whatever else you wanna call it. I’m blending it all together. I think the more simplified writing, while not necessarily bad, did keep the danger from feeling very real to me, even in the darkest moments. I don’t think I “felt” what I was supposed to feel. Maybe there was too much telling, not enough showing. And certain things were just expected to accepted. A main character captured out of the blue? Don’t question it, just go with it.
Overall, it feels like a more juvenile book that is pulled into the young adult realm with some racier topics or moments. Even among all that, though, the darkness never feels very dark. Maybe I just needed a longer novel. The world building, the characters, the story…it’s all a good start, but I just needed more.