Friday, February 14, 2014

Young Adult Fiction: Prodigy by Marie Lu

After covering Marie Lu's Legend last week, the natural follow-up would be Prodigy, the second novel in Lu's Legend trilogy. I will have to go ahead and warn you, there are spoilers ahead, especially for those who haven't read Legend yet.

The Situation: June and Day have managed to escape the city of Los Angeles, but are headed straight for Las Vegas, a military city where being caught again by the Republic is a very real possibility. Fortunately, they manage to meet up with the Patriots, a group that has been working with the Colonies in order to take the Republic down. Not only do the Patriots agree to take in both June and Day, but they also manage to meet up with familiar faces, and get some sorely needed medical attention.

The Problem: While being taken in by the Patriots is a blessing, it comes with a price. In exchange for the safe release of Day's brother Eden, and passage into the Colonies, the Patriots want June and Day to assassinate the new Elector. Not only is it a dangerous mission that involves releasing June back into the hands of the Republic, but neither her nor Day are quite sure they are ready to take a life. But time is running out, and they need to make up their minds soon. Meanwhile, jealousies abound within the Republic as well as the Patriots, making the mission that much more complicated and difficult to carry out. And once again, there is the question of who can be trusted, and who the real enemy actually is. While June doesn't trust the leader of the Patriots and is slowly beginning to trust the Elector, Day becomes convinced the Elector is the enemy, and begins to wonder more and more if the relationship between himself and June could ever have a chance of surviving. The stakes are higher than they have ever been, and while it seems like the two heroes have already lost a great deal, they realize there is still plenty that could be taken away from them.

Genre, Themes, History: Just like Legend, Prodigy is a young adult novel that takes place in the not-so-distant future. A future where the U.S. has been split into the Republic and the Colonies, and the two are at war against each other. It is also a dystopian future where the strength of the military is everything, and the poor are taken advantage of while the rich are handed everything and are given all of the privileges and power. Also, for the first time, Prodigy gives the reader a view of the Colonies, something the Republic has always kept hidden from its citizens (there is even a map in the very beginning of the book that clearly shows the border between the two countries). But while the cities of the Colonies seem to sparkle and shimmer with new hope, (*spoiler alert*) Day and June soon learn that the grass is indeed not greener on the other side, and letting the Colonies win the war will not fix the problems currently present in the Republic. Both sides have their own agenda and propaganda to push, and are willing to do anything to have their side advance. Something else that the reader is given a better look at is the group known as the Patriots: a well-funded organization working to take down the Republic, seemingly with the help of the Colonies. The Patriots also appears to be littered with double agents as even the leader of the group holds a prominent position in the Republic's military. Instead of things becoming clearer, they actually get more complicated in this book. Even how June and Day feel about each other becomes more complicated.

My Verdict: So much better than the first one, and the first one wasn't even bad. The characters are just more believable and flushed out. And while Prodigy is still very intense and dramatic, it isn't so much so that I found myself rolling my eyes with every turn of the page. Instead, I found myself becoming genuinely concerned for the characters, specifically June and Day, and worried about the choices they were making, or not making. And while (*spoiler alert*) June and Day spend a good portion of the book separated from each other, it doesn't feel like some cheap plot device employed just to get the two characters away from each other in order for the seeds of doubt and suspicion to be sown more quickly and effectively. Also, to my very real surprise and delight, Prodigy doesn't end on a cliffhanger! Huzzah! Now, don't get lulled into a false sense of comfort...the ending is still pretty heart-breaking, but at least I didn't feel the need to pick up Champion right away after reading the final word, like I did with a certain other YA book (Catching Fire I am looking in your direction), although I won't lie, I was fully prepared to do so. Anyway, Prodigy is a great continuation of the series, and I can't wait to see what Champion has to offer.

Favorite Moment: *spoiler alert* When Kaede tells Day all about how the world really is, as opposed to what the Republic has always told them. Apparently, in Lu's version of the future, Africa is a burgeoning continent doing really well, as is Antarctica of all places. Also, Russia no longer exists (ouch) and Australia is at war with itself. Fascinating.

Favorite Character: Again, it is an even split between both June and Day. The are both still extremely likable, and extremely frustrating. But hey, that's teenagers for you.

Recommended Reading: Unlike the first book in The Hunger Games series, Legend doesn't really stand on its own, and neither does Prodigy. Just because neither one of them ends in a cliffhanger, it doesn't mean you'll be able to just stop there and not read the rest of the series. Well, maybe you are the type of person who could pull that off, but I certainly am not. If you've read Legend and Prodigy, might as well continue on to Champion.

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