Book Review & Author Interview: THE YOUNG ELITES & THE ROSE SOCIETY by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult - Dystopian
The Young Elites: 4/5stars
The Rose Society: 5/5 stars

(Acquired from Goodreads - The Young Elites)
the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. 

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. 

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
THE YOUNG ELITES series is an extremely captivating dark read. We get to experience  the world through Adelina's eyes - only she is not your everyday 'hero', but a villain. As a lover of all young adult books, I've read dozens of different storylines, but this series definitely stands out on its own. Adelina is like a drug, and you can't help but be sucked into her world. 

Soon after you start the first book, THE YOUNG ELITES, it thrusts you into the action, which is possibly one of my favorite things about this series. Marie Lu left no time for stalling from the beginning! I've noticed a lot of books start out with the back story - which is sometimes better, but the way Marie Lu writes from Adelina's perspective is fantastic. You get to experience her flashbacks and really feel her thoughts as she glances back at a memory. 

The lead protagonist Adelina, has a very dark past that is consistently haunting her future.  As a child, her and her sister, Violetta,  came down with a sickness that swept their world. Though this isn't just your everyday flu-like symptoms - this sickness either kills you, or it leaves an everlasting mark, and potentially some extra "side effects". While her sister Violetta is left with no markings at all, Adelina is left without an eye, and her jet black hair has turned into a light silver hair color that changes depending on the lighting - deeming her as a malfetto. Since malfettos are considered an abomination among the world, this left her fathers business slowly coming to a halt, and quickly draining their funds. 

As she was growing up, her father tried and tried to bring out the worst in Adelina. The worst meaning she was a malfetto, and she could possibly have some super natural power that he could use to try and sell her for a profit.  Though he did not succeed at the time, he did however, succeed in bringing a horrible side of Adelina to the surface.  

While Adelina is trying to escape her horrible life, she is captured by Teren and is awaiting to be sent to her death. The day of her sentencing, she is rescued by Enzo - the leader of The Dagger Society (a group of 'young elites' who developed special powers after the sickness). Adelina is thrown into this world of the unknown, and she's trying to make sense of it all. While not being able to trust anyone just yet, she's fighting her own personal battles with herself and has only one goal in mind. Rescuing her sister. 

Speaking of Enzo and Teren, they are also the two other perspectives we get to read about! The two may seem like complete opposites, but as the story unravels, they are linked in a unique way.  
At the end of THE YOUNG ELITES, we are introduced to a new character that will bring a smooth transition into her second novel in the series - THE ROSE SOCIETY.  

I really loved how Marie Lu added different characters perspectives into the story, and it wasn't just one sided. It really gives us a view behind the scenes - which I think is highly needed in this series. Since the main character, Adelina, is in fact so dark, it was quite refreshing to be able to switch it up. She refers to herself as "truly gone", which doesn't even begin to cover her in the second book.  Shes out for vengeance, and is very ruthless. 

In THE ROSE SOCIETY, you will be introduced to some amazing characters (some of my favorites!).  I don't want to spoil you with information about them, but I can promise that you will love them too!

Even though Adelina was VERY hard to relate to in the first book (which is why I deducted a star), the second book was even better.  Yes, she delved deeper into that dark side of her, yet you couldn't help but being drawn to her and actually relate to her constant battles with herself. 

Her interactions with the new characters were fabulous too. It was nice to see her take in that role of being a leader and embrace that side of herself, rather than cower behind others and second guess herself. 

There are so many turn of events, twists, and bloodshed... It makes my head spin just thinking about it! This book was a lot too take in, and possibly one of the darkest reads I have ever had the opportunity to read. 

But can we just talk about that PLOT TWIST at the end? Seriously. Mind BLOWN. The end of the second book isn't necessarily a cliff hanger, (thanks for that, because I don't think I'd be able to survive until the next one comes out) but there is certainly a list of questions I want answered! 

I think everyone needs to applaud Marie's ability to write - especially from the villains perspective. These two books are on a level of their own, and I cannot WAIT to read what happens next. 

Check out some of the photos I took of the two books for my instagram account! The covers are so beautiful, I just had to!

1- What inspired you to create this series?

I grew up obsessed with fantasy novels, so I always knew I’d attempt to write a fantasy series. While reading about the Renaissance, I wondered, “What would happen if some of the survivors from the bubonic plague actually came out of their illness with strange powers?” The story evolved from there.

2- What made you choose to tell the story of a villain instead of a hero?

My agent, actually. An original version of this story had Adelina in the role of the typical villain, but it was my agent who suggested making her the main character. That was the initial trigger for the idea of writing a villain’s origin story.

3- You mentioned that Adelina wasn't the original protagonist. Can you tell us a bit about the original protagonist and why you decided to have Adelina as the main?

The original protagonist was actually an early version of my character Raffaele Laurent Bessette. Back then, Raffaele was a shy, nice, very bland student attending University in the Young Elites world. He was recruited by Enzo after a villain (Adelina) attempted to make him join her own society instead. Raffaele at the time felt like a very uninspired character, very two-dimensional and unable to carry the story on his own, and that first draft felt like a been-there, done-that superpowers story. Once I switched everyone’s roles around, Raffaele’s personality suddenly blossomed, and he became one of my favorite characters.

4- Did you find it difficult to write in Adelina's perspective than previous characters you've created? 

Hell yes. Day was a breeze to write, and even June, who was occasionally challenging because I had to learn about all the random things she instinctively knows, still had her head on straight. They were both good people growing up in an evil world, so it was very comfortable to be in their headspaces. Adelina did not give me an easy time. In order to write her, I had to truly believe the twisted things she believed, and try to convince the reader that she felt justified in her actions. I love her, but I never feel good about myself after I finish writing her chapters. She brings out the darkness in me!

5- If Malfettos were a part of our modern world and society, what do you think would happen?

Sadly, I think it has already happened throughout history (and modern times), over and over again—we are afraid of those who are different from us, and so our solution is to both figuratively and literally “burn them at the stake.” This happened all the time back in medieval times and the Renaissance . . . killing people who were accused of being witches or demonic, killing people for being Christian, for being Muslim, for being Jewish, for being disabled, and on and on. There are so many examples that I don’t even need to think about what would happen.

6- The way you described The Sealands and The Sunlands with so much detail is absolutely stunning. How did you come up with the imagery for the world you created?

Thank you! A great deal of it was inspired by Renaissance-era Italy, as well as my own travels throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. So beautiful I can’t even stand it! The imagery of fantasy elements was inspired by video games I love, art books, animals (i.e. baliras are basically flying ocean rays) and so on.

7- If Adelina met Day and June, what do you think would happen, and what would their conversation sound like? 

Uhhhh I don’t think it would go very well. Adelina might say, “This is what I think,” and then Day and June would be like, “WTF is wrong with you?!” I think June would be immediately suspicious of her, and Day would figure out her dark side eventually. They’d probably end up as enemies who nevertheless respect each other’s talents, or Day and June might try to talk Adelina out of her insanity.

8- What is the hardest part of the writing process?

The first draft. I fear and loathe writing the first draft, because it turns out absolutely nothing like the book I envision in my head. The blank page is terrifying. I enjoy the revision process much more, because I have something to work with and I can see it becoming more and more “book-like” with each pass.

9- Every writer comes across writers block while writing a book. Can you tell us how you overcome yours? 

Writer’s block usually means that I don’t know what should happen next in my story, or that there is something wrong with what I already have. In those cases, I tend to step away from the writing and go do something else creative or refreshing—I’ll sketch, or play video games, or watch a movie, or go on a walk. Sometimes the block clears up in a day. Sometimes, a few weeks. I’ve learned not to panic when it happens, because eventually the creative well will build up again and I’ll be able to see where I’m supposed to go.

10- Last but not least, if you could pick a few characters from any book and/or movie to be in your villain squad, who would you choose and what would your name be? 

Villain squad! I’ll go with the name Marieficent. I don’t actually think I’d have the power to keep these folks in check….but what the hell, this is a fantasy. So, here’s Marieficent’s squad:
  • Kaz Brekker, from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, because he is too damn smart. I’d be a little afraid of him taking over and usurping me, but….I might be strangely okay with that.
  • Kady Grant, from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae. If my villain squad needs to do anything hacking-related, that’s my gal.
  • Bane, from Chris Nolan’s Batman. Strong and intelligent, but more importantly, easier to control than the Joker (if he likes you).
  • Hermione, from Harry Potter. Not that she’d ever be a villain. But if she did, we’d all be shaking in our shoes, because she’d pwn everyone.

Marie Lu was born in Beijing, China in 1984. Her given name is Xiwei. Although Lu moved the United States at age 5, her early life in China greatly influenced her work. Her mother lived through repression by the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution. On a walk with her aunt, 5-year-old Lu witnessed tanks and soldiers preparing for what would become the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
In 1989, Lu and her family moved to the United States, settling in Texas. She went to college at the University of Southern California, where she studied political science. Lu originally considered becoming a lawyer, but she ended up taking a job as an art director for a video game company. She has said in interviews that certain elements of Legend, such as the Skiz fights, were inspired by her love of gaming.
Lu started writing as a young girl, and she wrote novels for 12 years before Legend, her first book accepted for publication, hit bookshelves in 2011. Legend attracted attention almost immediately - CBS Films bought the movie rights before it was even published. Since then, Legend and its two sequels Prodigy and Champion, have made Lu a household name among teenagers and adults.  

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