Author: Marie Lu
Publication Date: 11/29/2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.The Republic can be separated into the have and have-nots. June Iparis falls into the former category, a daughter of wealthy parents, graduate of the top schools, and also, unfortunately full of unknowing discrimination that comes with never having experienced the other side. Day is the latter: unprivileged, undereducated, and fighting for survival. The death of June's brother Metias lets them meet, but their intelligence keeps them there in a struggle for understanding.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Ah, this book made me happy. It's what I would qualify as a proper dystopia. The Republic is a terrible entity wrapped up in fervent societal nationalism. Each home has a portrait of the Elector. Every time the anthem plays, you salute and recite with conviction. There is a clear separation between the state supporters and everyone else, and those whose support are unabashedly favored. One teeny issue that I have with a lot of dystopia is that I need to know how things came about, and this was addressed in bites and pieces with hints left that more information would be brought forth as the series progresses. (Just a little more background information in Legend, however, would have made this book really shine.)
Amidst a bleak background the characters were engaging. What I enjoyed the most about them is their growth. This would have been a much different book if June and Day never progressed and stayed firm in their beliefs. It would have been a book that I don't want to read. Marie Lu peppered in bread crumbs throughout the story that I found myself flipping back to in understanding as things moved forward. A lot of this was especially visible through Metias who managed to grow as a character even after his death. (For those that find that a nervous idea, don't worry, it's written well.)
There is one sort-of issue that I had, however. The first is June and Day's age. I know the reason that they both have to be so young is that it's easier for her to an impressive prodigy if she's younger, but there were times that I had to remind myself that June is 15 and not 18+. It's difficult for me to reconcile the idea of a 15 year-old thinking like she does on a consistent basis - June's narrative seemed more mature than her age. I'm not sure what part of that is due to her intelligence and what part is due to having grown up in such a strict environment. On the other hand Day, perhaps because I found him slightly more relatable, seemed more age-appropriate, although he had his moments.
There is something in Legend for everyone: a smart and strong heroine, lip-biting action sequences, and a well-written story that will leave you part-ruminating, part wishing you could turn the page for just a little bit more.