Legend

Legend - I know people really love this book, so I'm going to defend my meek two stars as best I can. First of all, I want to state that I am not bashing the book, or anyone who enjoys it. This is strictly addressing my preferences, and my pet peeves in novels.I'm also warning that while most of this is on technique, I have to use spoilers as examples.Now, I went into this book with high hopes. This book got raves reviews, and advertised as an exciting dystopian novel with exceptional characters. And I might have loved the novel, except for one thing: the writing.WARNING: SPOILER TERRITORYThere is a cardinal rule in fiction: show, don't tell. And in dystopian novels, that rule is vital in world-building. You can talk at me and warn me how dangerous the government is, and how brave Day is, and how fantastic June is. But until I see it, alive and present on the page, I don't believe it. And that was the problem. I don't believe in Legend's universe, not simply because the government is unrealistically malicious, but because I'm never SHOWN anything. Author Marie Lu talks a good game, but all of the coolest moments of the book are told as paragraph-long memories. Example: in the beginning chapters, June scales a building. That is awesome--except, we don't see it. We don't feel her exhilaration when she breaks the law, or see what equipment she used to accomplish such a feat, or even imagine what getting so high in the air feels like. All of that first-hand excitement is taken away. If that had been shown to me, every moment of terror painted for me to feel, I would have evidence of June's prime badassery. But, in a memory, all I have is her word and her lack of punishment for the crime. And, since she isn't punished, the Evil-Evil-Bad Government is a little hard to believe right away.And that is not the only time the characters just talk about their great moments, instead of showing them. Lu has the protagonists rotate narration, giving Day and June their own chapters. Usually that narrative tool doesn't bother me. But here, every time something interesting began to happen to Day, the chapter would end and it would switch back out to June. And, the same way, June's exciting moments were swapped out with Day's perspective. When June was about to go into the ring, to fight her way into the undergound world, instead of describing the event, the author shifted over to Day, who did not even have a good view of the fight. It sucked, because I wanted to be in June's head, feeling what she felt, seeing what she saw. This underground is so new to her, I was psyched for her point of view. It was disappointing when, instead of getting to feel the grittiness of this world first-hand, I was stuck with a mere observation. I felt like I was robbed of the real story.Rotating narrators is a delicate practice, and it's a pet peeve of mine when authors do it. Because that isn't just a writing choice; it's copping out of having to write something difficult as it happens, in the moment. I know it's really hard to get pain, physical pain anyway, right on the page. After all, so many authors do try to show the grit, and they fail. But when a writer doesn't even try, but instead uses another character to distract us as the moment passes, the world becomes less tangible. And as I reader, I know I'm missing out.Legend isn't just about a corrupt government, but how humans let themselves be ruled. There is a lot to be had in Marie Lu's universe. That is what gives this two stars: I was taken on a journey someplace new, and at the end of the book, I felt like I didn't see any of it.