News From Prep
Posted October 9, 2012
Marie Lu, Author of Legend, Visits with 8th Graders
In early June 1989, when Marie Lu was a five-year-old living in Beijing, she and her aunt took a walk from their home to Tiananmen Square. When they saw troops and tanks massing, they figured they should go home. That night was the Tiananmen Square massacre, and Lu’s memories of the monolithic military presence appear in her novel, Legend, about which she spoke to Prep’s eighth graders in their English classes on October 2. "It can be hard living in a dystopia to see that it's a dystopia,” Lu observed.
English teacher Sarah Cooper selected Legend, the first in a trilogy (the second book is due out in January), as a summer reading choice after several students recommended it to her last year. It is set in Los Angeles—a futuristic, plague-ridden, half-drowned city—and also ties in with dystopian themes in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
We are living in a “golden age of dystopian fiction for young adults,” Ms. Lu told the students. One of her favorite dystopian novels is Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Ms. Lu says she “grew up with Harry Potter” and also recommended classic science fiction and fantasy books by Orson Scott Card, Brian Jacques, and what she referred to as the “founding fathers of fantasy,” Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, and David Eddings. She thinks “genre fiction” gets an undeservedly bad rap and sees young adult fiction as more optimistic than adult fiction.
A former video game art director who is now writing full-time, Ms. Lu called herself a “twelve-year overnight success” and encouraged students to persevere through rejection. "If your book isn't working, you have to put it aside," she said, because you'll be wasting energy on it that you could be using for a new writing project. Ms. Lu, who studied political science at USC with the original thought of becoming a lawyer, offered advice to those aspiring to a career in “the creatives”—the visual and performing arts, including video games: "If you love what you do and you're good at it, you can make it work and make a lot of money."
Students were visibly enthralled by Ms. Lu. Students lined up to have their copies of Legend signed after class. One student commented the next day, “It felt like we had a celebrity on campus!”