Writer’s View: Legend by Marie Lu

From Goodreads: What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills

 The Writer’s View:

Lu did something really amazing with this book: she developed an emotional connection between the reader (or at least, this reader) and two characters largely off stage. She accomplished this through a continuous series of short, poignant flashbacks interspersed throughout the entire narrative.

Flashbacks are a tricky thing to handle. Writers can get tangled up them, turning them into large info dumps that hinder the narrative and momentum of the plot. (Been there, done that.)

Every flashback that Lu employs is poignant and short. She delves into flashbacks that have intense emotional context to the current situation of the characters. The entire effect is stunning.

The two main characters, June and Day, both have important relationships with characters who don't get a lot of stage time. June: her brother, Metais. Day: his two brothers, mother, and deceased father.

Itty bitty spoiler’s below . . .

When June’s brother dies early in the novel, the reader has only had a few interactions with him, and one of them in a flashback. Yet I physically felt the impact of his death, and how deeply it effected June.

By the end of the novel, when Day’s elder brother is killed, I sobbed. Sobbed. Not because his brother had a main role in the novel, but because through flashbacks, I got to know and care about him. I was amazed at how much compassion I had for these side characters.

Lu’s technique is of particular interest to me. In my current WIP, I have a main character who, due to physical logistics and the self-imposed limitation of a 1st person POV, has the potential to suffer from being largely off-stage. I picked up a very neat technique from Lu. Hopefully I can make it work in my novel!