Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

TheYoungElitesThe Young Elites by Marie Lu (The Young Elites #1)

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin on October 7, 2014

Source: Library

Rating StarRating StarRating Star

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever.

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My feelings about The Young Elites are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, I was impressed with Marie Lu’s writing and her commitment to creating a dark and complex protagonist; on the other hand, I was annoyed by how frequently Lu’s writing fell into the clichés of YA romance and lost focus.

Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto, one of the few to recover from a brutal disease that left its survivors with “unnatural” physical markings and sometimes even deformities. Adelina has silvery hair and eyelashes, and lost one of her eyes because of the disease. Malfettos are hated and feared in Kennetran society, especially the Young Elites, a group of malfettos who have developed otherworldly powers as a result of the disease. While the hostility and ridicule that Adelina faces as a malfetto is cause enough for bitterness, it’s really the abuse she endures at home that turns her into a volatile and rage-filled young woman. Her father tortures her and manipulates her to the point where Adelina has no conception of how people should truly treat one another.

Escaping her father and becoming a part of The Young Elites seems like a beautiful – and impossible – dream to Adelina. I mean, generally someone who has known very little tenderness and love isn’t the best at making friends. And even as the other Elites seem to accept her as one of them, Adelina questions whether they are her friends. Do they only like her because she’s useful to them? They train her to use her power, teaching her to craft dangerous and deadly illusions. She soon learns that her power is fuelled by passion, fear and hate…but will Adelina be able to keep the darkness from overwhelming her? Does she even want to?

Compared to Adelina, Enzo was boring as hell. The leader of the Young Elites was entitled, cruel, and he ran hot and cold. But oh no! Look guys, it’s okay because he’s a darkly handsome dethroned prince with emotional baggage – the perfect lover! I think not. The Young Elites would’ve been a better novel if it had focused solely on Adeilna’s journey. Honestly, I thought Marie Lu passed over a discussion about the effects of trauma and how untreated abuse victims have the potential to perpetuate the cycle of violence for a forced teen romance plotline. And that just annoyed me.

But I was very impressed with Lu’s other supporting characters, especially Rafaelle. I think he is one of the most consistently underestimated Young Elites, both by their enemies and the other malfettos. At first I thought he would be the third point of the inevitable love triangle, but ultimately I think what Adelina wanted from him was a different kind of love: the unconditional and accepting love that she should have had from her family. This is made slightly uncomfortable by Rafaelle’s position as a gorgeous and higlhy skilled courtesan with the ability to influence people’s emotions and desires, because Adelina is attracted to him physically…but I still think their emotions are strictly platonic. Regardless, his character emphasizes the problem that The Young Elites is most concerned with: how society makes judgements about people based on their physical appearance that serve only to marginalize them, whether as monsters or as empty-headed whores. Not your average YA moral message, if I do say so myself.

I was expecting a lot from The Young Elites, and unfortunately it just didn’t deliver as much as I wanted it to. There’s been so much hype surrounding this book and I’ve heard so many great things about Marie Lu that I can’t help but be disappointed by the number of clichés littered throughout The Young Elites. While The Young Elites has many shortcomings, its protagonist is not one of them: Adelina is a young woman with incredible power and dubious motivations, a combination that makes for unpredictable plot points and compelling reading. I look forward to reading more about her journey – be it as hero or as villain – in the sequel.

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