I think the books I enjoy most are those I have no expectations from. This was the case with The Young Elites. I was having yet another readers’ block and this book was the perfect antidote. It was just the thing I needed.
The Young Elites is based in a fictitious land where suddenly a mysterious fever rages across the land infecting thousands. The adults, who got infected, did not survive. Of the children who did, there were some who were permanently marked as different. Their physical appearance was altered. Moreover, there were some among them who developed strange abilities. They started calling themselves Young Eiltes. The story traces Adelina, a malfetto (the term for those who survived the fever and were marked) she has one eye and she is a young elite, one who had no idea she had any powers until she unwittingly unleashed them one stormy night. Slated for execution by the inquisition, she is rescued by the Daggers, a secret society of the young elites who oppose the crown and the Inquisition. They take her under their wing and begin training her.
In the Acknowledgments to the book, Marie Lu stated that this is not a hero’s story, but a villain’s. It is an interesting take and certainly makes me curious to see what she will do with the story. The Young Elites was a whirlwind once it got going. The world building was a wee bit thin but that can be forgiven because the storytelling was excellent. The narrative lagged a little in the middle and that was probably the only slow portion in the entire book. The closer the end loomed, the more frantic the pace got. The book also covered multiple points of view and thankfully, far from being annoying, they added to the overall plot. They offered precious insights into the other characters’ thoughts and ideas. The last few chapters were especially chaotic (in a good way) My only complaint is that now I’ll have to wait till October 2015 for the next installment and mid 2016 for the final book and that is a very long wait indeed.
Now onto Adelina, the main protagonist, she is also a young elite with the potential to be extremely powerful. But she also has a lot of darkness in her heart, enough that it makes some in the Daggers convinced that she can’t be trusted. But there is also cause for that darkness. Unloved and abused by her father and then nearly killed, she has not seen much kindness in the world. This filled her with hate and anger, both of which had years to fester and settle deep inside her core. That the darkness in her is also the key to her strength is another dilemma. Without that darkness, she is powerless. Lu stated that this is a villain’s story and having read this book, I don’t want Adelina to lose herself to that darkness. There is still light in her and I want her to hold on that. Add to that, she hasn’t had a lot of reason to let the darkness go; betrayed, used and abused at every turn, I don’t blame Adelina for her choices. Besides how do you have light in your life when everyone around is either lying to you, or trying to use you and you can’t trust any of them to have your back. Yes, she made mistakes but anyone in her position would have made the same ones. I can’t help but root for her and I hope she doesn’t lose herself.
Violetta, Adelina’s sister was perhaps the only truly decent character in the entire book. She was partly responsible for the misery Adelina suffered at the hands of her father, but she genuinely cared for her. She cared for Adelina ‘with no strings attached’. It was the only healthy relationship Adelina had.
Enzo was the leader of the Daggers and also the crown prince of Kennetra, though his elder sister disowned him for being malfetto. He was difficult to figure out because we never saw things from his point of view. He was hard, cold, calculating but he could also be kind and vulnerable, something he wasn’t used to. There was a beginning of a relationship between him and Adelina and I think it was very important for her; it grounded her and made her believe that she was worthy of being loved. Something she had been denied her entire life.
I initially really liked Raffaele, he seemed to care about Adelina long before Enzo or anyone else showed Adelina any semblance of kindness. It seemed like he and Adelina were friends and that he trusted her. Of the entire lot, Adelina trusted him most, even more than Enzo. So it was very disheartening to learn that he never trusted her, which made his entire behaviour towards Adelina suspect. Was any of it real, did he ever really care for her? That was especially sad, when Adelina realised just how far his deceptions ran.
The rest of the Daggers were all right, I suppose. I liked Gemma, she seemed genuinely nice and not given to deception. Lucent and Michel were also fine, but Dante was little better than a bully. Teren, head inquisitor was a very devious villain. Add to that, he was also very powerful and very hard to kill (or even injure for that matter)
I am curious to see how the events will tie in with each other. Too bad that there are two more books to go and the release of book 2 will be in October this year. And I’d like to see Adelina in control of her powers and her destiny and not lose herself to the darkness within her. The Young Elites was a surprisingly good and entertaining read and I loved every minute of it.