Legend  - Marie Lu

With a more coherent and more believable premise than, say, Veronica Roth's Divergent series, Legend establishes an Orwellian police state (something that feels akin to the society of Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang), whose boundaries are defined no less violently. It's one of these episodes of violence that centers the moral system of Lu's world -- once this crime is committed, the lines are very clearly drawn. But it is an act that is hard to stomach, and that seems shocking even with romantic/violent predecessors like Divergent and The Hunger Games. Does it work to ground this created reality? Do the stakes from here on out seem more real? It does. They do. But it also demands that every other event reach that same level of realism -- the romance can't be stilted; the politics must feel genuine; the alternatives that the main characters fight for must feel, in short, worth it, otherwise the violence that Lu asks readers to go along with -- this one violent act in particular -- becomes theater with no real pain, and no real consequence, to make it seem honest. It short, it risks becoming a melodrama about revenge. I enjoyed Legend, but it's asked me to root for a certain kind of humanity after an extraordinarily inhumane act was displayed. I'm not so lovestruck as yet to follow blindly.