Book Review: PRODIGY
PRODIGY by Marie Lu is the sequel to LEGEND. It begins right where the first book ended and continues the upward trend of high stakes and suspense through another action-packed thrill-ride.
The story is told by one of two main characters who alternate each chapter, Day and June. Day is a criminal, a poor kid from the slums rebelling against the system and currently the government’s most wanted. June is a prodigy, the only one to ever receive a perfect score on her aptitude tests, graduating from college at 15. She hails from the wealthy elite and breaks every rule she thinks is irrelevant.
The two met in LEGEND when June was tasked to catch the elusive Day and along the way they fell in love and discovered a government conspiracy of controlled plague infections to the country’s poor and a violent cover-up for anyone who disagreed with the status quo.
I read this book in two days right after finishing LEGEND in one and I highly recommend it for lovers of the YA genre. It is very much like DIVERGENT/INSURGENT though has more of the political underpinnings earlier in the story as well as the action and physical prowess of the two protagonists which reminded me of THE HUNGER GAMES. In my opinion, it’s “better” than DIVERGENT/INSURGENT but not as good as THE HUNGER GAMES in how it gripped me with the characters, their emotions, the stakes, and the tragedy that strikes them. Compared to LEGEND, the characters are more fleshed out and the world more realized. I put the book down more often, though, but that also could have been because I was tired from tearing through LEGEND.
I was intrigued when I picked the book up in the store and saw that the story was narrated in the first person by two protagonists. Being a YA novel I assumed that these two characters would eventually fall in love and this story-telling approach would allow access to each character’s inner thoughts. Having each chapter alternate between the two characters helped build tension and suspense over the course of the novel as I, the audience, became privy to secrets and actions that would effect the other protagonist. It was one of the aspects I most enjoyed in reading LEGEND. It’s like reading TWILIGHT and MIDNIGHT SUN together in the same book.
However, unlike in LEGEND, the chapters in PRODIGY were longer and I found myself wanting to switch to the other character for another point of view. The action was also inconsistent. There were longer lulls. Though it helps with the suspense, it doesn’t help with the “action” that both Day and June spend a good deal of time incapacitated by injuries or illness. They are at their most enjoyable when they are at their peak. Day especially shows very little of the charm and innate ability to “run” buildings that he becomes so famous for in LEGEND.
Compared to other YA novels I’ve read, LEGEND didn’t dwell in a lot of the angsty emotions of teenage-hood. There are not a lot of love moments between Day and June. Most of the novel is plot driven. They meet quickly, their attraction is immediate, their connection seems undeniable, yet they don’t have much of a “relationship” emotionally or physically. The characters, though, are very strongly defined by Marie Lu and are consistent in their behavior, even when they are being erratic. What Lu deftly does is use the assumption of their love and delays their relationship with each twist in the plot. It drives up the suspense (and is also utterly annoying as a reader!) Like a soap opera where two characters make puppy-dog eyes at each other for years and then finally get together only to be separated by an ocean immediately afterward.
However in PRODIGY, there was a bit more moping, a lot more miscommunication, a lot of things “unsaid” to each other but given to the audience in their inner thoughts. Since a third book, CHAMPION, is coming out in November I can only imagine that this is the growing separation between the two lovers before their final reunion. It’s the NEW MOON of the series. And that’s fine, but I find it a bit artificial and frustrating.
One of the characterizations I most enjoyed was June’s OCD calculations of time and space as she assesses her surroundings. I also like how the publisher printed each chapter in different fonts and colors to signify a “Day” or a “June” chapter
The only real negative to reading LEGEND and PRODIGY is that they follow fairly consistently the “dystopian” model of the YA genre and while I didn’t see specific plot twists occurring, the broad strokes of the story were predictable as was the love story progression. Overall, though, Marie Lu accomplishes a very nice read and characters that have stayed with me since I closed the book. Can’t wait to read the next one!