'Young People Who Do Extraordinary Things' Are The Norm In Marie Lu's YA World (2023)

Marie Lu says it's fitting — given her tendency to write dark, dystopian novels — that she was born in the year 1984. Primo Gallanosa/Penguin Random House hide caption

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Primo Gallanosa/Penguin Random House

'Young People Who Do Extraordinary Things' Are The Norm In Marie Lu's YA World (2)

Marie Lu says it's fitting — given her tendency to write dark, dystopian novels — that she was born in the year 1984.

Primo Gallanosa/Penguin Random House

In her modernist loft in LA's arts district, author Marie Lu has a modular workspace and lounge area whimsically dubbed The Writer's Block. "We wanted it to be playful," she says.

But writer's block doesn't seem to be much of a problem for the 33-year-old science fiction and fantasy novelist. Her dystopian trilogy "Legend" and her fantasy trilogy "The Young Elites" both became best-sellers.

The apartment she shares with her video game-artist husband is dotted with vintage NASA posters, neat stacks of comic books, and a carefully curated collection of stuffed animals. (You can see photos here.) A section of the walls and floor is painted with the geometric patterns featured in one of Lu's favorite video games, Monument Valley.

"It's a game where you walk around structures figuring out puzzles based on Escher-like geometry," Lu explains. "So they're buildings that don't make sense. ... It's just really, really cool and beautiful."

Lu created her own real and virtual world for her latest novel, Warcross, a science fiction thriller. Set in the not-too-distant future, everyone wears virtual reality eyeglasses which connect their brains to a master computer in order to play a game called Warcross.

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The competition is all the rage — a bit like Hunger Games meets World of Warcraft. Players use avatars to compete in hyper-realistic settings, trying to capture artifacts from their rivals. The best players battle in person for the world championship inside a Tokyo stadium filled with screaming fans.

Lu says her plot was inspired by real-life video games, such as League of Legends. "Fifty thousand people will pack into the Staples Center to watch the world championships, and that very much influenced the creation of Warcross," she says.

The hero of the book is Emika Chen, a plucky, 18-year-old bounty hunter. She's got everything you'd expect — rainbow-dyed hair, a sleeve of tattoos, an electric skateboard — and she's also a self-taught computer hacker.

"She hacks her way into the Warcross mainframe and kind of understands the underlying code that holds everything together," says Lu.

Emika glitches herself into the game, and captures the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the young billionaire genius who created Warcross when he was 13. He makes Emika an official player with a secret mission.

Unlike her protagonist, Marie Lu doesn't know how to code. But she does have a tattoo of a mythological phoenix on her back, and like Emika, she's Chinese-American. Lu was born in Beijing. Her family lived a bike ride away from Tienanmen Square, where her aunt used to take her to get popsicles and watch students protest. But when students were massacred there in 1989, the family fled to the U.S.

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Lu grew up with her computer scientist mother and engineer father in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Houston. She remembers spending hours after school, holed up in the broom closet of a Chinese restaurant where her mom once worked. There, she learned English by writing little stories.

"I had a lot of really emo stories as a kid," she recalls. "I wrote a lot of fan fiction." She also wrote a lot of fake "wanted" ads, based on the real ones she saw around the city. "I would see them stapled on corkboards all over the place," she says. "So I would make up criminals and write wanted reports about them. I think I was always meant to write dark stories. I don't know why I did that as a kid; it's not like I was traumatized or anything."

When she wasn't writing or reading sci-fi and fantasy books, Lu was drawing and playing video games like Sonic the Hedgehog.

"My very first system was the Sega Genesis back when I was 7 or 8 years old," Lu says. "I played that into the ground. Like, my parents had to confiscate it and put it in attic, the whole thing."

Lu got a chance to work in the video game industry when she was in college. While studying political science and biology at USC, she landed an internship as an artist at Disney Interactive Studios. There, she worked with a team to dream up new games.

"I came up with a couple of ideas based on Peter Pan and this one game about a cactus man who lived in a balloon world, which is very unfortunate," she remembers.

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Lu continued to work at Disney, where she met her husband, Primo Gallanosa. (They worked together on a game called Fuzz Academy -- about cute, fuzzy animals — which they had to shut down after someone hacked into it.)

By then, Lu had already begun writing "Legend," a best-selling dystopian trilogy set in a dark, futuristic Los Angeles. The story follows June, a rich, teen genius hired to hunt down a Robin Hood-like boy. Lu also wrote the popular fantasy trilogy "The Young Elites," featuring 16-year-old, Adelina, a Darth Vader-like character.

Lu was chosen by DC comics to write a YA story about 18-year-old Bruce Wayne, who becomes Batman. Lu created a new villain for him to battle — 18-year-old Madeleine Wallace, the youngest inmate at Arkham Asylum. "She is incredibly smart and outwits Bruce on a daily basis," Lu says. "He's kind of fascinated by her, and she messes with his mind."

Best-selling YA author Leigh Bardugo, who recently published Wonder Woman: Warbringer, says she admires Lu's young female heroes and antiheroes.

"Marie has a really good handle on what most people would describe as morally gray characters," Bardugo says. "She writes these incredibly dark, intense, full-throttle stories and then you meet her and she's just the kindest, most generous, most fun person."

Lu plays the piano in her loft in downtown LA. She's currently working on a book about Mozart's sister, Maria Anna. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

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Mandalit del Barco/NPR

'Young People Who Do Extraordinary Things' Are The Norm In Marie Lu's YA World (7)

Lu plays the piano in her loft in downtown LA. She's currently working on a book about Mozart's sister, Maria Anna.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

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At her loft, Lu often pauses to play her electric grand piano. These days, she's thinking a lot about music. In addition to Batman, she's also writing a book about Mozart's older sister, Maria Anna.

"She composed music — she toured with Wolfgang when they were kids together," Lu says. "They played for all the kings and queens of Europe, and he looked up to her his whole life, [but there's] nothing in history about her."

Many of Lu's stories may soon end up on the big screen. If they do, she'll insist on casting her characters — such as Warcross' Chinese-American hero, Emika Chen — true to their origin. "It's a deal breaker," Lu says. "That would have to be written into the contract. I am fine with it not ever being made if a studio refuses to do that."

Whether she's writing about a musical prodigy, a budding superhero, a pubescent computer whiz or adolescent villain, all of Lu's characters have something in common: "I'm fascinated by young people who do extraordinary things," she says.

Speaking of which — Lu, 33, has now written seven best-sellers, and has three more novels in the works.

FAQs

What is Marie Lu known for? ›

Marie Lu (born Xiwei Lu) is a Chinese-American young adult author. She is best known for the Legend series, novels set in a dystopian and militarized future, as well as the Young Elites series, the Warcross series, and Batman: Nightwalker in the DC Icons series.

What inspired Marie Lu to write? ›

The first spark of inspiration came when I was watching Les Misérables, the movie version, on TV one afternoon. As I was watching it, I thought it would be really interesting to write a teenage version of Jean Valjean versus Javert—a [story about a] criminal versus some sort of detective-like character.

Is the young elites dystopian? ›

The novel, The Young Elites, is set during a 1300s Renaissance Italy, inspired dystopian land. The novel tells the tale of Adelina Amouteru. When a Adelina was young girl a deadly blood fever passed through her land.

Is Warcross a dystopia? ›

'Young People Who Do Extraordinary Things' Are The Norm In Marie Lu's YA World The best-selling young adult author specializes in dystopian fiction. Her latest, Warcross, is set in the not-too-distant future, and draws on Lu's time working in the video game industry.

What should I read after Legend series? ›

8 Books like Legend
  • The Moon Dwellers (The Dwellers 1), by David Estes.
  • Delirium, by Lauren Oliver.
  • Partials, by Dan Wells.
  • Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors 1), by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
  • Gone, by Michael Grant.
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry.
  • Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi.
24 Jun 2020

Who is the richest YA author? ›

1 Nora Roberts ($390 Million)

She has since compiled a wealth of $390 million which is why she is at the top of our list with the highest net worth.

Will there be a 5th book in the Legend Series? ›

A fourth and final book is on its way. The sun hasn't set on Day and June. Marie Lu's bestselling dystopian Legend Trilogy, which seemingly concluded with Champion in 2013, is getting a fourth and final book.

What degree does Marie Lu have? ›

She went to college at the University of Southern California, where she studied political science. Lu originally considered becoming a lawyer, but she ended up taking a job as an art director for a video game company.

Does June and day end up together? ›

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS** Fans of Marie Lu's Legend trilogy knows that it ended on a bittersweet note. Our heroes June and Day save the Republic and live to tell the tale but don't end up together. The illness that Day suffers gave him amnesia and he doesn't he remember who June is.

What is The Young Elites by Marie Lu about? ›

From Goodreads: The Young Elites is set in a Renaissance-like world where magic is new, chaotic, and misunderstood, and three rival societies with supernatural abilities battle for power. And a girl transforms from an unwanted daughter into a fearsome leader, igniting panic and sparking war between seven nations.

Is there romance in The Young Elites? ›

Heck, every book must have a tinge of romance in it, but the romance in The Young Elites was very mediocre and I was gagging for me. The characters in the book were such a thrill to read, especially when the Young Elites make an appearance.

Who is Adelina's love interest in The Young Elites? ›

Over the course of the three novels, Adelina falls in love twice — once with Enzo, the benevolent, steadfast leader of The Young Elites, and once with Magiano, the charming, unpredictable thief. One of these young men brings out her light, her goodness.

What happens at the end of Warcross? ›

As the game concludes, Zero spawns into the map. He vaguely warns Emika of the dangers of Hideo's plans without going into further details. Emika meets up with Hideo once again and he divulges the true intentions of Warcross.

How old is emika in Warcross? ›

We meet 18-year-old Emika Chen, days from being evicted. She's been on her own since her father died, making a living as a quick-thinking bounty hunter. With mounting debt and little hope, she hacks into the opening game of the Warcross Championships, hoping to make some quick cash.

Is Warcross a good book? ›

Ultimately, Warcross is absolutely worth the read and I highly recommend it for those looking to reach that last end-of-summer popcorn itch.

Is it worth reading life before Legend? ›

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! I well written glimpse into the pre-Legend lives of Day and June. I particularly enjoyed Days' story, but both are great. My 13yr old absolutely loved this book!

What should I read after Legend by Marie Lu? ›

Warcross by Marie Lu

If you liked Legend, then you'll definitely love Warcross! Not only is Warcross set in the same world as Legend (it's basically a Legend prequel of sorts), it will also scratch that sci-fi/dystopian itch in the same way as Legend.

Can writing a book make you rich? ›

#7 Nobody Gets Rich as an Author

The average royalty through a traditional publisher is 10%. So even if you sell 10,000 copies of $10 book, you're only walking away with $10 grand. If it's not profitable, why do so many people write books?

How much money does a YA author make? ›

The average income for a published young adult author with an agent was $31,000. The average income for one without was $5,000. Selling a book in that calendar year. The highest earning author said his/her income was 90% advances, 5% royalties, and 5% misc.

Who is the richest author in India? ›

Chetan Bhagat Net Worth
NameChetan Bhagat
Net Worth (2022)$28 Million
Net Worth In Indian Rupees208 Crore INR
ProfessionIndian author and columnist
Monthly Income And Salary1.5 Crore +
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4 Mar 2022

Who killed June's brother in Legend? ›

According to Thomas, when he had stabbed Metias, Metias' last words were for Thomas not to hurt her. Their relationship was friendly until June realized that Thomas killed her brother, leading June to free Day and rebel against the Republic.

How old are the characters in Legend? ›

Legend centers around Day and June, two 15 year-olds from opposite sides of the economic spectrum.

How old is June and rebel day? ›

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author launched her career with the dystopian series, drawing thousands of readers into the epic, romantic saga of Day and June, two 15-year-olds from very different backgrounds who come together in a future ruled by the totalitarian Republic.

Who is Marie Lu married to? ›

Is Legend by Marie Lu a series? ›

Legend, The Series

When did Marie Lu write her first book? ›

In 2011, she published her first novel, the YA dystopian fantasy Legend, which is set in a violent, half-flooded Los Angeles governed by martial law. The first book in a trilogy, Legend was a critical and commercial success that enabled Lu to become a full-time writer.

Is Day from Legend a boy? ›

Personality. Daniel "Day" Altan Wing is an outgoing, brave, and sarcastic teenage boy who is not afraid to stand up for his loved ones and the things he believes in.

What does June from Legend look like? ›

June was from the Ruby Sector of the Republic and was being groomed for military leadership from a young age. June is often known as "The Prodigy" to many people in Republic since her perfect score was one of a kind in all of the Republic's history. June has dark brown hair and long, loose side bangs.

Who is the antagonist in Legend? ›

If you've got a revolutionary streak to you, then you'll love the fact that the antagonist in Legend is the whole government structure. The Republic of America is definitely not working for its citizens in this story. In fact, it's pretty much screwing over its citizens without a care in the world.

Does Enzo come back to life in The Rose Society? ›

After being brought back to life in The Rose Society by Queen Maeve, Enzo appeared with completely black eyes, particularly when he seemed to lose control. However, Enzo would seem to be the same as when he was truly alive.

What is Malfetto? ›

Malfetto is the name for a person that has survived the blood fever, but was left with a physical mark. Examples of this are strange markings resembling birth marks on the skin or different hair/eye color. The people of the Sunlands treat the malfettos as links to the gods and often keeps them in temples.

How many pages are in The Rose Society? ›

Product Details
ISBN-13:9780147511690
Publisher:Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:10/04/2016
Series:The Young Elites , #2
Pages:448
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Is Adelina Amouteru a villain? ›

Adelina Amouteru, the main character of The Young Elites Novels, develops throughout the books as a villain affected by various known forces of society.

How old is Adelina Amouteru? ›

Adelina has another memory, in which she is thirteen, and her father is being kind to her.

Who does emika end up with? ›

Emika finds out that Hideo is still very attached to her, and after seeing him, agrees to meet him again. She explains what happened, and they mend their ties and form a relationship again. After all that happens, it is speculated that they are still together.

What is the climax of Warcross? ›

The climax is when the Phoenix Riders' house gets blown up by Zero right after he stole Emika's memories on her account and exposes her relationship with Hideo. He also asks Emika to work for him and offers her even more money than Hideo did.

Who was zero in Warcross? ›

Zero, aka Sasuke Tanaka, is a human turned computer program and the main antagonist of the novel Warcross. Zero's life began as a Japanese boy named Sasuke Tanaka, the brother of future millionaire and tech innovator, Hideo Tanaka. When he was young, Zero was kidnapped by a mad scientist named Dr. Taylor.

Who is the antagonist in Warcross? ›

Characters. Emika Chen is the main character. She is a skilled hacker who is hired by Hideo Tanaka, creator of Warcross. Zero is the main antagonist of the story.

Who is the protagonist in Warcross? ›

The main character is Emika Chen, a rainbow-haired hacker who is buried in debts. She takes a huge risk by hacking into one of the Warcross championship games to steal a rare power-up she can sell for an unimaginable amount of money.

Will Warcross be a movie? ›

Will the Warcross adaptation be a Movie or a Series? It's planned as an episodic series.

Is Warcross mystery? ›

Full of games, romance, mystery and action!

Is there romance in Warcross? ›

Warcross, on the other hand, was constantly intriguing, the battles exciting and what little romance it had was actually cute (with a side of plot twist thrown towards the end). The story has so many things working in its favor.

Is Warcross a real game? ›

Warcross is a video game created by Hideo Tanaka at the age of 13. Players either wear the NeuroLink glasses or contacts to see the virtual reality world of warcross. The game is on a player v.s player basis, where the ultimate goal is to get to the other team's Artifact before they get yours.

What awards has Marie Lu won? ›

Author Awards
  • Author Awards.
  • Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.
  • World Horror Convention Grand Master Award.
  • World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.

Is Marie Lu a good writer? ›

Marie Lu has been writing beautiful, richly developed young adult science fiction and fantasy books for more than a decade. Her young adult books range from dystopian to historical fantasy to super hero stories.

When did Marie Lu write her first book? ›

In 2011, she published her first novel, the YA dystopian fantasy Legend, which is set in a violent, half-flooded Los Angeles governed by martial law. The first book in a trilogy, Legend was a critical and commercial success that enabled Lu to become a full-time writer.

Who is Marie Lu married to? ›

What degree does Marie Lu have? ›

She went to college at the University of Southern California, where she studied political science. Lu originally considered becoming a lawyer, but she ended up taking a job as an art director for a video game company.

Is Legend by Marie Lu a series? ›

Legend, The Series

How many books has Marie Lu written? ›

Marie Lu

What is Marie Lus next book? ›

Marie Lu: The new book is called Warcross. It is very near future science-fiction, so it is set maybe 10 years in the future.

Where does Skyhunter take place? ›

Skyhunter by Marie Lu takes place in a fictional world where the country of Mara is the only free nation. Other nations are overruled by the Federation. The Federation is able to take control of other nations by creating monster like humans called Ghosts.

When was Marie Lu born? ›

Marie Lu was born on July 11, 1984, in Wuxi, China, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. By the age of 5, she and her family moved to the United States in Georgia in 1989. She attended the University of Southern California and interned at Disney Interactive Studios.

When did Marie Lu go to college? ›

Author of Young Elites Trilogy and Legend Trilogy

Marie graduated in 2006 from USC and currently resides in Los Angeles with her boyfriend, two Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and a chihuahua mix., and she spends her time stuck in traffic. She once was an art director in the video game industry, but now writes full-time.

What has Marie Lu written? ›

Marie Lu - Author of Legend, The Young Elites, and Warcross.

Is Marie Lu Chinese? ›

Born in China, Marie Lu immigrated to the United States as a young child. Her greatest satisfaction with her successful writing career is her ability to support herself by doing something creative.

Do June and Day end up together in champion? ›

In Prodigy, Day broke up with June as he thought she shouldn't be with a dying man but they rekindle their relationship in Champion after almost a year of being apart.

Do June and Anden end up together? ›

In Champion's epilogue, they become a couple when June turns 22, only to break-up 4 years later since June would never love Anden the way he wanted. Even though it is shown that she'll never romantically love him she is still fiercely loyal to him and is the leader of a patrol that guards Anden.

How old is June from legend? ›

June Iparis is one of two protagonists in the Legend Trilogy, the other being Day. She is a fifteen-year-old girl who scored a 1500 (100%) on her Trial.

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