Welcome to another Thoughts On book review. You’ll see these pop up on my blog whenever I’ve found a book I just can’t put down.
The Prince And The Pauper has always been one of my favorite stories. As a child, I loved the tale and as I grew older I found myself constantly drawn to different adaptations of it. Whether it was the Mickey Mouse storybook or Kate Brian’s novel, The Princess And The Pauper, I couldn’t seem to get enough of the story. The concept of two people draw together from different worlds by a common desire just continued to intrigue me.
So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across Marie Lu’s Legend, a novel that takes this classic concept and turns it on its side, tossing the characters into a dystopian universe and forcing them to combat both the struggles of a brewing political rebellion and a blossoming young romance.
At the beginning of Legend readers familiar with the classic tale will fully expect that June, the Republic’s prodigy, and Day, the nation’s most wanted criminal, will meet. And indeed, when June’s older brother is killed in one of Day’s infamous capers, our princess ventures out of her privileged lifestyle and into the dangerous city streets to find him. Disguised as a peasant, her mission is to track Day down and bring him in. But when the Republic moves to execute their recently captured criminal for his crimes, things change.
In a moment of confusion, the wrong boy is killed in the execution and now all of a sudden, Day and June, two people separated so harshly by this line of justice, are united by something much more powerful.
Because that mistaken boy was Day’s older brother, John.
Loss falls into place as the bond connecting these two fifteen year olds together and it forces them both to reconsider if the side they’re fighting for really is an insurmountable barrier after all. For years Day was a criminal, forced to run from the law and steal what he needed to survive while June was busy training hard and resting comfortably in the Republic’s glitzy city as a national celebrity. June put her faith in a government Day actively sought to destroy. And because of these stark differences, it isn’t until John is murdered that we realize how similar Day and June really are.
United by their shared experience with loss, June and Day manage to lift the barrier between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the wholesome and the corrupt. We realize as their story goes on that emotions linger in all of us, no matter which side you’re on.
As a society it’s okay to notice our differences. The qualities that distinguish us from others are important to recognize because it means we’re aware of the complex world we’re living in.
But sometimes we look at the people around us and think only about those differences when, in reality, as human beings we’re so much more alike than not. A concept like the one expressed in the Prince And The Pauper tale emphasizes those differences, allowing us to see past them to the things that make us similar.
And it’s only when we get back to those moments of collective unity that we witness the unmistakable bond that links us all together as humans. Whether it’s pain or suffering, love or relief, we feel that emotion in our chests and it unites us together, making us strong. Making us a community.