Contemporary young adult literature is full of teenage heroines trying to survive in a world, either real or fantastical, that has gone completely mad. Sometimes the power they find within themselves is natural, sometimes supernatural; it can be a gift or a curse. Marie Lu’s wonderful new novel has many of these familiar qualities.
In The Young Elites, a plague has left many adults dead and young children marked and scarred. When some of the children start to display strange powers, society decides that they are dangerous, cursed—a malfetto. For Adelina Amouteru, this means that her cruel father will do just about anything to get rid of her.
When Adelina commits a crime and tries to run away, she is caught by the Inquisitors and sentenced to death. It is only the arrival of the infamous Young Elites—malfettos who live in hiding—that saves her. Adelina must learn to control her powers if she wants to be one of them, but there are external forces testing her loyalties and decisions that are nearly impossible to make.
Lu portrays Adelina with heart-wrenching authenticity. We cheer for her, but we fear her a little, too. The Young Elites is the first in a series but ends neatly. Here’s hoping she’s already at work on the second one.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through eighth level Catholic school.