The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


Legend by Marie Lu

Yes, yes, I know, another dystopian YA. I swear, I'm switching to middle grade fantasy next. Again, it seems like there is more of this genre than ever before (probably because there is), you can't say a few of these aren't actually pretty awesome reads.

One happens to be Marie Lu's LEGEND (2011, Putnam Juvenile). In a future, plague-addled Los Angeles, the polar ice caps have melted, flooding the Earth and leaving behind two factions in North America:  the Republic and the Colonies.

In the Republic, where all 10-year olds are required to submit to a trial to test mental and physical abilities, 15-year-old June stands out. It's not just because she's the only one to score a perfect 1500 on her trial exams, but due to her ability to pull off the kind of over the top skills that would make a Navy Seal drool. If it weren't for her passionate loyalty to the Republic, she might not get away with it.

Her older brother, Matias, isn't so crazy about her abilities, though. With their parents dead, he feels responsible for his 15 year old sister, despite her training to become part of the Republic forces alongside him.

The other side of this story is told by Day, a 15 year old boy from the poor side of town who failed his trials and somehow escaped the labor camps where failures are sent. His own skills have made him a legend as well, from disrupting Republic bases, stealing Republic Notes (money) and making the Republic look bad in a way that has led to his becoming a rebel celebrity.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Each of these legendary kids is on opposite paths to the future when their trajectories collide. Trying to steal plague cure for his family, Day is involved in a confrontation that leaves Matias dead. Now June is out for his blood. But when they come face to face, these two legends may be more alike than either of them can let themselves believe.

Long on my to-be-read-list, we picked up this book in London's Foyles during spring break and my 13 year old son read it cover to cover on the plane ride back to the States.

The story was inspired by the movie verso of Les Miserables. In January, Lu told TIME FOR KIDS:

"...I thought it would be really interesting to write a teenage version of Jean Valjean versus Javert—a [story about a] criminal versus some sort of detective-like character. At the time, I already had a picture in my head of a character that was a teenage criminal. But I’d never quite found the right story for him until I watched the movie. That is where it originally started. The dystopian setting for the book came about when I saw a map online of what the world would look like if all the [polar ice caps] in the world melted and the oceans rose. That gave me the inspiration for the flooded version of the Republic. Those two things combined to inspire Legend."

The movie rights sold before the book even released and is in development with CBS Films with Twilight producer Wyck Godfrey running the show. He's excited enough about it to throw down a "it's going to blow The Hunger Games movie out of the water" gauntlet, but this was uttered before records were broken, so the world shall see.

Book 2 comes out this fall.

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