Lu, Marie. Legend. Putnam, 2011. 305p. Grades 6-12. Science Fiction.
Two fifteen year olds from very different worlds struggle against an oppressive regime in the dystopian near-future of a divided United States, now devolved into the Republic of America and the Colonies. Day, a wily criminal from one of the poor sectors of Los Angeles, and June, a wealthy student from a well-respected family, find themselves first pitted against each other and ultimately united in their fight to survive as well as to discover the heinous secrets of the Republic.
Thoughts- I struggled with many parts of Legend, despite the fact that I found it fast-paced and highly readable. Many of these problems were, for me, stylistic choices—in particular, the decision to write the entire book in present tense and the method of typographic presentation. While I do understand that present tense makes the action much more immediate (kind of like a screenplay) and can be a way of conveying the urgency of the situations at hand, I just don’t like it. I think sometimes it forced the author into the passive voice (“The anger in Kaede’s eyes has turned into skepticism”) in an awkward fashion, and I found some inconsistencies in what characters knew as prior knowledge and what they were learning at that moment. I also found the printing method with all of Day’s narration in that quasi-gold ink highly annoying. I thought it was hard to read and an unnecessary modification to the text—only using an alternating font would have worked just as well to differentiate between the two narrators.
The other major issue I had with Legend was how much it mirrored Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, particularly in tone and setting but also somewhat in content. It had the same near-future dystopian United States (even with the capitol in a similar place—what’s up with all these dystopian Americas placing the capitol in Denver?), the same “evil dictator” trope, the same class conflict; even the Trials conducted on the children in Legend had echoes of the Games in the Collins trilogy. Because I saw so much of Hunger Games in Legend, I think I was more disappointed by what I considered its failings in stylistic decisions, the relatively static character of Day, and some very predictable plot twists. I wanted to be as swept into the story as I was with the Collins books, and I just wasn’t.
Despite all this, I still think students, especially those with a taste for dystopian fiction, would really enjoy this book and that it would appeal to a wide age range, mostly because it is so fast-paced. I also think kids could potentially “see” themselves in the two characters (no matter how stock I felt they were)—the rebellion in both Day and June would really speak to teens, both Day’s more outward style and June’s internal struggle with what she’s been taught versus what she’s learning. For me, this one gets filed away as “not for me…but I still think it’ll be popular.”