Wednesday, January 30, 2013

review: prodigy

Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile
(ARC received at ALA12)

Prodigy is the sequel to Legend, one of the best dystopian novels I've read in the last few years. In this middle book, June and Day have teamed up and are off to find the Patriots, who are eager to start a rebellion against the Republic and, in return for helping June and Day, give the two outlaws the task of assassinating the Elector Primo. But the old Elector has died and in his place is his son, Anden, who disagrees with many of the policies his father enacted. As June gets to know him, and his plan for their country, she finds it difficult to go through with her part in the assassination plot.

I'm going to be honest here and say that, compared to Legend, Prodigy was a disappointment to me. Though there's still the strong emotional connection to the characters and their deep love for their families, this gets a bit muddled as June and Day join up with the Patriots and get swept up in the upcoming rebellion. Their romance, which worked well for me in Legend, falls prey to a few overly-cliche YA tropes here: the quick declaration of love, sudden love triangles, and an emphasis on their romantic relationship and feelings for each other that detracted from the rest of the story. The more I read, the more convinced I was that June and Day don't really belong together and I wished the book had focused more on how the Republic and the Colonies came to be than the romantic entanglements of its leads. Which, coincidentally, brings me to another small issue I had: in Legend I seem to remember nobody really knew if the United States had been a real nation or not; here in Prodigy there are a few references to the United States as if everyone knows the history of the Republic and the Colonies. This confused me and I wound up feeling like we'd somehow skipped over a chunk of June and Day's learning as they discovered more about their history. I wanted this "mystery" of the USA to be explored a bit in Prodigy and instead what I got was a fairly action-driven story of secret alliances, betrayals, and a plot to kill the Elector Primo. It becomes clear that there is no good answer for June, Day, and their country. This is entirely my preference, but I didn't love that. While it makes perfect sense that both the Republic and the Colonies were messed up in different ways, the fact that every single character in this book was corrupt in varying degrees bothered me; I like having a good guy to cheer for, not just a "lesser evil," and neither June nor Day remained as principled or good as I remember them being in Legend. In particular June's evolving feelings toward Thomas bothered me.

I was eager to discover more about the world June and Day live in, and how our world became theirs, but Prodigy was mostly concerned with what was currently happening to them, and though the twist near the end was supremely well-executed (probably enough for me to pick up the third book in spite of my issues with this one), I still didn't love Prodigy. I'm sure this book will work well for others; for me it seemed to be mostly the fact that I was expecting a very different book than the one I got.