The Young Elites is the origin story of a villain. It is set in an alternate fantasy version of Renaissance Italy. After the equivalent of the Black Death sweeps through the world, a few survivors come out of the illness with supernatural powers. The [story of the] main character, Adelina, chronicles her downfall into darkness (from Marie Lu’s tumblr).
Raised eyebrows was my response when hearing that The Young Elites was the story of a villain. After all, I like to root for my heroes to slay the villain from the beginning of the story to the end.
On the other hand, I’m fascinated by the complexity of humanity. The ferocity we use to protect ourselves, and sometimes those we love.
Protecting herself is in part, if not in entirety, what Adelina is trying to do. From her overbearing father who wants rid of her. The government who wants to kill her. The people who want to use her. From herself.
The story’s multiple viewpoints reveal what drives many of the characters, showing that the line between strong leadership and deceitful manipulation can be too easily crossed.
A harrowing quote: I will find you all. I will use everything in my power to save your souls. I was born to destroy you (p 119).
Though I found the writing awkward in a handful of places, with phrases that sounded thoroughly too modern for a “fantasy version of Renaissance Italy,” the the complicated characters and storyline made it a worthwhile read. Twisted love, a yearning to be accepted, and a power too strong to control collide in Adelina.
As much as I love stories of redemption, I’m unsure if The Young Elites will ultimately be one of them. Regardless, I can’t wait to find out a bit more in The Rose Society, The Young Elites #2.
If I Stay teaches patience to its readers. Knowing the pivotal plot point before even opening the book then spending the next two hundred pages waiting for the resolution would be enough to try a saint’s patience if it were not for Gayle Forman’s writing. The frequent use of flashbacks takes readers from the anxiety of wondering what will happen to complete immersion of a simpler time. Of Labor Day cookouts, Julliard auditions, and deciding who to be for Halloween.
Of heart to heart talks with Mom (who is gone). Singing with Dad (who is gone). Playing with Teddy (who might be gone).
And once again you’re jolted back to present reality, where Mia must decide to go or fight to stay.
Forman’s characters are so real; in fact, they’re people I’ve known, in a small way. I have family with Adam’s need to occasionally make a Big Production. A parent who I can tell nearly anything. Friends who I could call on night or day if I need help. I’ve received kindness at the hands of strangers that I’ll never forget, just like Mia.
The familiarity of the people in the novel is the only thing I could relate to, while Mia decides. It anchors the novel, while the grandness of Mia’s situation spirals out of control.
If I Stay takes place in less than a few days’ time, but in its span, I learned who Mia was, the wonderful and challenging life she had Before, and the grief that would overtake her like nothing else… if she stayed.
If these characters were toddlers and I was an old lady, I would pinch their cheeks. They’re that adorable.
Lola especially. The MC’s got style and knows how to rock it. It was marvelous to have a female who has a substantial amount of self confidence, most of the time.
The focus of the novel is on her point of major vulnerability. A boy named Cricket.
You guys, these two could have had the perfect story. They grew up as next door neighbors in a picturesque section of San Fransisco. They could have had an idealistic high school sweetheart romance!
But shit happened.
Cricket and his family end up moving away after the event-that-is-not-to-be-thought-of. Suffice to say, Lola was majorly hurt.
Life went on, and Cricket was pretty much going to be that boy in Lola’s past. But then the Bells came back to town.
Oh, the irony.
If Lola walked into a room, I’m pretty sure I’d be impressed by her. And Cricket? Well, I’d never be able to look him in the eye, but I’d definitely be sporting a crush.
Once again, Perkin’s world is incredibly fleshed out. The setting and the characters, they all have quirks that make them unique. Lola’s an aspiring fashion designer and Cricket Bell (Bell, as in Alexander Graham) has rather impressive inventing skills. Even the minor characters are not to be outdone. Cricket’s sister is aiming to be an Olympic ice skater and one of Lola’s dads runs his own catering business.
Like its predecessor, Lola and the Boy Next Door has a character that’s already in a relationship when the romantic interest appears. It’s a little awkward to read, which I guess is the point. Life’s messy and all that. I do wonder if Isla and the Happily Ever After (2014) will have that in the plot line. Personally, I hope not.
The story of Lola and Cricket is a complex one and it takes quite awhile to get it all out in the open. It was deliciously frustrating knowing that these two had a story but not getting specifics. It’s like having a friend who has a major secret but won’t give, leaving me to jump around and squeal, “Tell me. Tell me!”
Trust me, me squealing isn’t pretty.
In the end, though, everything’s fleshed out in a way that leaves this reader very, very satisfied. Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door is a definite win.
Interested in more? Read my review of Anna and the French Kiss.