Marie Lu is already well-known for her "Legend" trilogy, which I now very much want to read after devouring "The Young Elites." The island nation of Kenettra is in social and political upheaval. About a decade ago, the blood plague swept through the nation, killing all the adults it infected and most of the children. Those children that did survive were left with disfiguring or identifying marks of some kind: oddly colored hair, splotches of color across their faces, strange markings on an arm. Adelina has silver hair and a scar where her left eye used to be. She is a malfetto, one of the marked. There are rumors that some malfettos also developed unnatural powers, and that these dangerous youths are banding together to end the mistreatment of malfettos, who are believed to be abominations; they are called the Young Elites. Adelina's father practices cruelty in many forms upon her in the hopes that she will reveal a power that would make her worth something, whereas as a simple malfetto, he fears she will never be taken as a wife. Adelina shows no inkling of power, until the night she runs away from home after overhearing her father sell her as a mistress to a wealthy merchant - when he discovers her and threatens to kill her, Adelina suddenly calls upon a dark power within her that raises shadowy demons with huge claws and teeth dripping blood. She is, after all her father's cruelty, an Elite.
This is a dark, bleak book, suitable probably only for kids 14 and up, or younger only if they're very hearty. Adelina suffered years of abuse, both physical and mental, at the hands of her father, and the resultant darkness in her soul is very black indeed. Lu doesn't shy away from Adelina's dark thoughts of power and ambition and revenge, making this a tough read for gentle souls. I loved it, though, and have a great respect for authors who don't shy away from writing about dark or complicated issues for teens. Adelina is a complex heroine, perhaps even an anti-heroine, and I can't wait to see where Lu takes her in future books.