I did it! I finished a trilogy! Cue the confetti! Launch the balloons!
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about my distaste for series fiction. I confessed that with my equally short memory and attention span, getting into and staying into series is really hard for me.
You know how when you’re single, people sometimes say, “You’ll find someone when you stop looking”? You know how you want to punch those people? Well, they probably deserve it, because that is some stupid-ass non-advice. But when it comes to my never-ending search for the Ideal Reading Experience, the platitude may have proven true. Because as soon as I publicly admitted I wasn’t digging series fiction, I found a YA fantasy trilogy that knocked my socks off from beginning to end. “We found love in a hopeless place…”
One thing I demand right off the bat from any series is that each book justify its existence. There’s nothing worse than a Book 2 or Book 3 that is just a rehash of what happened in Book 1. Way too many genre authors have one good idea and then try to stretch that idea into multiple volumes. Not only is that lazy storytelling, it’s also a blatant money grab. It offends my sensibilities. If you’re going to ask me (or my library) to pay good money for three or more books, you best have three or more discrete stories to tell, my friend. I used to be an English teacher; I can tell when you’re just adding filler to reach your assigned word count.
I don’t know why I’m taking this tone, because Marie Lu does not need to hear this lecture. Each book in the Young Elites trilogy builds on the one before while telling a brand new, original story. And, I should add, an increasingly dark and disturbing story.
Main character Adelina is a wild, twisted mess of a person, to the point where it’s a little disorienting. I occasionally had to stop and remind myself that Adelina’s “if you hurt me, I will hurt you back twice as hard” mantra isn’t actually a morally upstanding way to live. Then I’d dive right back into the story and cheer “Get em!” as she lashed out at her betrayers. Sometimes it is so satisfying to watch bad characters do bad things! But Adelina is not one-dimensional. If there had been no glimmer of a possibility that she could change for the better, she wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling.
If this had been an adult fantasy instead of YA, I think I would have wanted more elaborate worldbuilding and exploration of the powers the Young Elites are blessed/cursed with, but since it was written for a younger audience, I think Lu hit the right level of detail. I also would have loved more development of the romance between Adelina and Enzo, and Adelina and Magiano, but I’m sure some readers would be turned off or distracted by too much smooching. The focus was definitely on the action and adventure, which again is totally audience appropriate.
It’s a sign of a good book when you’re left wanting more after it’s over. It’s an even better sign when a series-challenged reader like me wants more after three books. Super fun, highly recommended, would shop again.