The terrible, linger effects of abuse as explained by a magical metaphor (and other deep things)

The Young Elites #1 by Marie Lu

As previously discussed, I really loved Marie Lu’s other series, Legend (or at least the one I read) so I was very excited to get started on her new series. I even started at the beginning, just for a change. And it was really good. At first I found it very formulaic, great but predictable, until about 60 percent of the way through, and it was awesome! I didn’t see anything coming. What I was not prepared for was how dark it is.

To summarize the story Adelina is a malfetto, a marked child who survived the terrible blood fever that swept through the nation when she was a child. Malfettos are bad luck, evil, blasphemous and occasionally magical. The night her father sells her to settle his debts is the night she runs away, the night her terrible powers appear and the night her father dies. Charged with his murder, Adelina is sentenced to die but she is rescued by a band of Young Elites – malfetto’s who have magical abilities. They want her to help their secret society, the Daggers, overthrow the government, Teren, an Inquisitor in love with the Queen wants to use her to destroy the Daggers and Adelina wants a place to belong, preferably with the Daggers leader Enso. Of course, terrible things happen.

The plot and the characters are interesting. I recommend reading the book to learn more about them, because I want to talk about something else. Adelina’s family and the abuse she suffered and how her magic power is a really good metaphor for the trauma an abusive parent inflicts on a child.

Adelina’s power is always described as a great darkness, a blackness, something hungry for blood and thriving on cruelty. I saw that pretty clearly as what happens to kids who are physically and physiologically tortured by a parent, as Adelina was. She’s not really a cruel person, but her whole life she’s learned that power is the ability to hurt or dominate other people. She’s also never really had an power over her own life, because it was taken away from her. So naturally, when she learns she does have power, she uses it the same way her father used his. Her power and her behaviour is dangerous towards other people because she’s angry and finally feels like she has some strength of her own and in her experience strength is pain. Other than taking psychology 101, I have no actual knowledge on the subject of abused kids, but that makes sense to me. If you’ve been taught that power is to turn other people into a victim, that’s probably what you’re going to try. I feel so sorry for Adelina, but some of the things she does are absolutely monstrous. Her darkness wasn’t her fault, but it’s still terrible.

As a character, she does not trust anyone fully and she while she longs for belonging, she refused to open herself up to other people, and thus can never really belong.I think that’s also probably a huge part of the damage done to a child by a parent who say, breaks her fingers on purpose. As much as she wants to belong to the Daggers, Adelina never tells them about Teren, because she’s basically incapable of trust, something else her father taught her. Kids who are abused often don’t trust adults – why should they? And as long as they can’t trust, they can’t belong and the more they wish for it. It’s a terrible cycle.

Adelina’s memories are particularly heartbreaking, particularly how she often remembers being happy with her sister, only to have her father appear, and turn a good moment into a nightmare. The contrast is well written and upsetting. I thought the sadness part was a description of a few weeks when her father was very kind to her, only for him to turn on her and start hurting her again. Her childhood memories aren’t innocent, they never seem innocent, because she didn’t get to have innocence at all anyway.

This book is angry and dark. It’s not nice, you don’t feel like there’s a happy ending waiting, but that’s the reality for a lot of teens. It’s a good book to have, I think it could even help kids, just to hear their own stories, to find words and images they can use to turn their experiences into something real that’s also safe and can’t hurt them anymore.

On a slightly happier note, the epilogue featured a gay character who was in a real relationship with another gay character and being gay was only one part of their personality because gay people are actually complicated human beings just like straight ones! So that was cool.

I will be reading the second one. I will also be recommending it.

Last movie I watched:

Bend It Like Beckham. Sweetest movie ever guys, everyone go see it.

Last TV episode I watched: