What Makes a Villain? What Makes a Hero?

The final book in The Young Elites trilogy came out last month and let me tell you--I was counting down the days. And you know what? It was SO good. So, so good. Beyond what I imagined it could be.

I'm still formulating thoughts for how I want to talk about it, so in the meantime, I'm brushing off last year's posts  for those of you who never read the series...because you really, really should!

Earlier this month, I posted my review of the first book in the trilogy, THE YOUNG ELITES. Today, I'm reposting a feature from when Penguin Teen invited me to talk about villains when THE ROSE SOCIETY came out because....well, I really liked the post. And I love how villains play a big part in this trilogy!

Stop back on Monday as I talk (Completely spoiler-free, of course!) about why I'm so in love with this series (Rather than, you know, an actual review of THE MIDNIGHT STAR because it's way too spoilery!!)

In THE YOUNG ELITES, the main character is antihero Adelina Amouteru, and it's unclear if she'll be a villain or a hero by the end of the series.

Then again.... 

“You are the hero of your own story.”
~Joseph Campbell, famous mythologist


Villain or hero, you're always the victor when it comes to seeing things through your own eyes.

That's why so many villains have depth. That's why so many people want to read about villains these days. They don't want to watch the movies and TV shows of old where villains are static characters.

They want that meat, that depth. They want something like WICKED by Gregory Maguire, which makes the Wicked Witch from THE WIZARD OF OZ seem more heroic. They want the uncertainty of VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab, where nobody is heroic, but some are moreso than others. They want to root for the bad guy in Joss Whedon's cult classic Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion, even though Dr. Horrible is planning to destroy his nemesis Captain Hammer and get accepted into The Evil League of Evil, and feel deeply for him.

YOU GUYS. I was watching Shrek the Musical on Netflix recently, which is a live recording of a Broadway musical that I saw in NYC a few years ago, and there is this ONE SCENE. IDK how it impacted me the first time I saw it, but watching it now, it struck me really hard. When Fiona and Shrek have a misunderstanding and Fiona goes off to marry Lord Farquaad, Shrek sings this song called "Build a Wall," and Shrek just...snaps. He's done. This world is over. He's not going to be good anymore. This moment is so strong with angst and strife that in this moment, he could have become evil forever if things had gone one way instead of the other. 

And in the end, isn't that how it is for every villain, for every hero? One defining moment. We all have the potential to be good, just as we do to be evil. One small thing can tip us in either direction. We all know that Shrek is a hero and not a villain, but if you watch the musical, check out "Build a Wall." You can see Shrek leaning toward evil because of where life has taken him, and the moment is breathtaking.

At the end of THE YOUNG ELITES in the Acknowledgments, Marie Lu writes,

“THE YOUNG ELITES began as a hero's journey--a boy takes on the task of mastering his powers and vanquishing the villain. The story didn't work, though, and I was left struggling in the middle of nowhere, trying to figure out why. One day, as I mulled this over with my agent, Kristin Nelson, she said, 'Hey, what about this Adelina girl? She's an interesting side character.'
'Oh, yeah,' I replied, distracted. She's a fun bad girl to write. I hope I can keep her around if I redo this.'
Kristin said, 'Maybe she should be the star.'
Sometimes, all it takes to see the right path is a flash of brilliant insight from someone else. I realized the problem was that I didn't want to tell a hero's journey; I wanted to tell a villain's."

~Marie Lu, THE YOUNG ELITES Acknowledgments

When I read that passage, I thought it was both great knowledge for aspiring writers, as well as fantastic insight into the birth of THE YOUNG ELITES. Plus, Marie Lu says she wants to tell a villain's story and Adelina is certainly no hero.

So does this mean she'll become the ultimate villain, or will she change her ways by book three and be on the side for good?

It's hard to say!!!

For now, that Will She or Won't She is part of what makes THE YOUNG ELITES so great. You never know quite where you stand with Adelina, especially when she embraces her darkness and says things like this:

“I am Adelina Amouteru... I belong to no one. On this night, I swear to you that I will rise above everything you’ve ever taught me. I will become a force that this world has never known. I will come into such power that none will dare hurt me again.”
~Adelina Amouteru, THE YOUNG ELITES

Adelina tries SO HARD to be good, but nothing works. She starts to think it may not be worth it.

She's on that verge.

There's a snapping point coming.

The question becomes...

Is The Young Elites Trilogy ultimately centered around a villain or a hero?

Which road is Adelina going to take?

To find out, readers will have to continue Adelina's journey in THE ROSE SOCIETY, and then meet her final reckoning in THE MIDNIGHT STAR.

Which way do YOU think Adelina will choose?

 Haven't read THE YOUNG ELITES?

Seriously, everyone should read this series. It's so fab!!!

This feature post was first on A Backwards Story September 22, 2015.

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Marie Lu
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers // Penguin
Received: Purchased

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.