Jamie Molnar ’21 // Emertainment Monthly Book Co-Editor
On October 6, the alley next to Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline was packed with eager fans. Although the young adult genre is usually aimed at teenage readers, readers of all ages came to hear author Marie Lu speak about her new novel Rebel. Readers were packed in a small theater for a discussion with Lu, moderated by Kiersten Frost, one of Brookline Booksmith’s children’s booksellers. An audience-based discussion and book signing followed the moderated talk.
Rebel is the fourth and final installment of Lu’s Legend series which follows the main perspective characters, Day and June, as they navigate their dystopian world and fight the corruption of their government. The first book within the series was released in 2011. Six years have passed since the third book, Champion, was published in 2013, and the characters of the Legend series have grown older just as the fans have.
Lu said the first audience she thought of when she decided to write Rebel was the readers who grew up with Legend and had been with her from the start.
“I very much wanted to make sure that I was going to [write] a book that was satisfying to readers who had followed me through the series,” Lu said during the discussion?
“It feels kind of odd and nostalgic [coming back to the series],” Lu said. “When I finished writing Champion I really thought the open ending is what I wanted and that was going to be it.”
However, over the past six or so years, Lu said she kept going back to her first series, writing little snippets and chapters post-Champion that she would release sporadically. Coming back to these characters years later, after both she and the characters themselves have grown, was not as smooth as she imagined it would be. Lu described during the discussion how it took her a little while to get back into the groove of writing these characters. She recalls Day, one of the main characters in the series, “sounding different” when she first went back to write him. After they found their rhythm again, though, Lu says it was nice to talk to Day, June, and Eden again.
Since Lu’s novels are within the science-fiction genre, there’s a lot of research that goes into the technology that the world of Legend involves. Rebel takes place in Ross City, which readers got a taste of in Champion, where society is run like a game and people’s actions are tied to a point system which then determines what apartments they can live in, what job they can have, even what groceries they buy.
“It was really interesting exploring that concept,” Lu said. “And also kind of unsettling because in the span of time since Champion ended, this stuff now actually exists in the world. This is no longer science-fiction. This is actually a system that is in place in China now.”
Lu also recalls the effort that had to be made to keep up with new findings in the technology she was using in her writing since a lot of the tech that is used in all of her series was being developed as she wrote. While writing, Lu may have even predicted new technology in the process. For her Warcross series, Lu writes about the Neuralink, a chip that gets implanted into the brain to create a brain-computer interface. Soon after publication, Elon Musk announced he was creating the same technology with the same name,
“I swear I came up with the name first!” Lu said in regards to the technology.
The idea of dystopia has also been unsettling while writing the entirety of the Legend series, Lu said
“It’s been kind of weird to see these dystopian things happening,” Lu says. “And now, post-2016, I feel like dystopia is not fiction anymore.”
When she first wrote Legend, the first book in the series, it was the year 2009. Obama had just been elected—it was an exciting time, but she says you could already see the cracks in the system. Especially now, in the era of Trump, it can seem as if our country is a scene out of a dystopian novel.
Despite the darkness that has crept into our society, Lu said she is eternally grateful for the young adult genre and for the ring of hope that it has always provided its readers.
“No matter how bad it gets in YA, you can see the young people in YA as the silver lining in the story. They are the ones who change things in their country and stand up to their governments, and you can see that happening in the real world now,” Lu says. “I feel like, in a lot of ways, YA has been mirroring what young people have always done, so it’s an honor to be a part of that.”
Combining beloved characters, new technology, and the dystopia that is creeping into the real world, it’s no wonder readers were lining up for Lu’s latest novel. In the finale of the Legend series, readers will find out who these characters have become, and who they will be when the past comes back to haunt them.