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.

13 thoughts on “Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

  1. First of all, trying to read this was weird for me b/c I have a sister named Adeline (*snickers*) . . . secondly . . . I got bored :/ Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was remnants of bookfunk, but I don’t think I made it to the 100 page mark. *shrugs* I applaud the not-your-average-YA-message-ness, but . . . I don’t think I’ll be trying to do it again any time soon. Sorry, it was a disappointment for you too 🙁

    1. Oooh, cool! I like the name Adeline…but hopefully she’s a little more chill than Adelina hahaha. 😉 Yep, I know what you mean. It takes a while for anything really big to happen, and there was way too much agonizing over possibly being evil in the first half.

  2. Pretty much my thoughts exactly — average YA though sometimes I like that. I totally agree with the boringness of Enzo. Why are YA love interests always the male mentor figure, and a brooding dark prince to boot. I don’t find that archetype all that attractive in the first place, and now I’m also so sick of it. Yawn.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. YES! Why do people find that attractive? I mean, being a jerk is not appealing. This is one of the things I can’t stand about some YA: sometimes they perpetuate the idea that a guy is only complex and hot if he treats you like garbage. Hell no! It doesn’t make you “deep” to be hot and cold and cruel.

  3. TBH I wasn’t going to pick this one up, no particular reason other than I’m just trying to not want EVERY book! It’s a shame it didn’t really work out for you and I really appreciate this review – and understand the point you’re getting at with the young attractive Enzo – just being attractive doesn’t mean he can be forgiven for all his other bad traits! It’s so fickle and I don’t like it – it would probably set me off on a long and insufferable rant so best that I avoid it!!!
    Lynn 😀

    1. Haha, I know all about wanting to read EVERY book! It’s a problem for me too. I definitely think you should avoid it if you don’t like that type of dude, he was pretty insufferable honestly. I never understand the attraction to those types of people; I mean, he’s one dimensional and just not a nice person. Hopefully my next YA has a more likeable male lead. 😉

  4. I’ve been reading WAY more Young Adult titles than I have in the past year or so, and although some of them have been good, my most recent experiences have been reminding me why I called the genre quits in the first place. The clichés! Marie Lu’s writing just seems like more of the same.

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    1. It’s the opposite for me, I’ve actually been reading less YA over the past year. It’s for the exact same reason you’re skeptical of it though: some YA can be really incredible and some of it is not (just like adult books, tbh). This is why I try to only read books that come highly recommended by my friends…sadly this rec didn’t work for me!

  5. I understand your struggle with this review. I had to wait a week to get my thoughts in order. I decided that overall I liked it. I didn’t like Enzo at all or the romance either. I liked Raf too, but he’s so loyal to Enzo that I’m not sure where that puts him next book. I have no clue what the next book will bring, but I want it so that’s a good thing. I enjoyed her Legend series, but they were totally cliche so if that bothers you, you should probably avoid them.

    1. Yeah, it took me a while to write this – there was definitely a lot to mull over. I’m also very interested to see where Raf ends up in the sequel because you’re right that he’s got potential to be Adelina’s enemy now. Hmmm, good to know about the Legend books. I do own the first two so I’ll probably read them at some point (too many books, too little time!)…hopefully the clichés will bother me less by that point.

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