The Young Elites is about a young noble named Adelina who survived a plague when she was a child, but not unmarked. In addition to losing an eye, her hair has turned white, marking her as a malfetto. Some malfettos have special abilities and are known as the Young Elite. Adelina soon discovers that she has an ability, which soon gets her swept up in a plot to overthrow the king and queen.
Having already read Marie Lu’s Legacy series, I went into the book expecting to enjoy it. Even so, the book had a number of surprises that I was not expecting and deeply appreciated (such as the fate of an important character and the motivation of another). In this regard, the series felt like a step forward in Lu’s writing. The Legacy series did not carry the same level of unexpected turns as this one did, which made the series less predictable. The Legacy series has shown that Lu has no qualms killing off major characters, something more common in YA these days, but not so early in a series. This established high stakes that will only make the series going forward more compelling and unexpected.
I have two main issues with The Young Elites:
First, I think the character of Raffaele was a somewhat unnecessary character. His mentoring of Adelina was important, as was his friendship with Enzo, but he also served an expository function that made some revelations in the book seem too easy. Rather than discover the emotions that Adelina’s magic aligned with, the series simply told us from the start. I think it would have been more powerful to discover this through her actions and experiences instead.
Secondly, we were repeatedly told that Adelina was dark and ambitious (and extension of my first complaint), but very little of what we were shown of her in the book really indicates this. Yes, she made a few questionable choices, but no more so than other characters, including those whose emotions were aligned with “joy” and other more positive emotions. It feels as though the book is trying to convince us that she has darkness within, but mostly fails in the attempt.
That being said, the characters were dynamic, the world believable, and the power-struggle engrossing. I will definitely be reading book two when it comes out.