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Have I ever told you how hard I love Labor Day weekend? No traveling; no gift shopping; no traditions; no nice clothings. Instead we get a long weekend to do whatever we want. And just in case you had any nutty inclination to exerting physical effort, weather in the northeast is just warm and sticky enough to dissuade.

The arc for Legend by Marie Lu was another recent street find. Set in what was once Los Angeles, the story’s premise of a girl prodigy hunting a criminal of equal intelligence and abilities sounded promising, if not original. It’s an ambitious choice for an author, promising two genius characters is a lot to write up to. We readers have to believe in  the characters’ high intelligence, and that regardless of their abilities they’ve still gotten themselves into a predicament with the highest possible stakes.

My sister swiped this, gobbled it up and insisted I read it posthaste. And here I am telling you the same, if you haven’t already.

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Day is considered to be the most dangerous criminal around. Fortunately, the government has no idea what he looks like. He’s escaped the radar by keeping a low profile, but when his younger brother contracts a plague he has no choice but to break into the hospital for medicine.

June’s world revolved around her blind allegiance to the Republic. She’s 15 and about to enter the army where the best and brightest always go. When her brother/guardian is killed by the most wanted criminal in the republic (Not really a spoiler – the back jacket tells you this), her first official assignment is to track his killer. Scary motivated, she goes under cover and soon finds herself in the company of a boy her age and the young girl he looks after.

I can see intelligence in every question she asks me and every observation she makes.

Fast reading isn’t always a sure sign of good reading. Sometimes you speed through because there’s no substance to mull over. Legend is an express read because the plot keeps pace with June and Day’s quick minds and quicker actions. The chapters leap frog each other, belonging to June or Day, so tension builds like a snowball bounding down a mountain. Sometimes you’re a step ahead of one, sometimes you fall behind because Wow, that just happened and you can’t imagine what’s next.

Dystopian is a crowded shelf filled with hot words that, in my awesome opinion, don’t live up to their promise. Legend is precise and smart in world building, plotting and character relationships. The dialogue is so natural you can hear June and Day’s voices, almost see their faces.

It’s refreshing to read a YA book in which the mighty superpower is intelligence. The second book, Prodigy, is already out, so I’m thinking someone will put it on their stoop soon enough.

This series represents the genre at its best. You have a broken down society ruled by corruption, lies and brute force. The masses are controlled by extreme poverty and plagues, but the Republic underestimates the power of truth. In a time when our own government has a penchant for bombing other countries, and spies and lies to us, appoints former Monsanto execs to the Food and Drug administration and shows blatant disregard for our health, this and Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam triology  are exactly the kinds of books we should be reading. Speaking of which, the final in the Maddaddam triology comes out this month!