Hello and welcome to the first Western media covered on this blog! Since this is also the first YA novel on the blog, allow me to give a quick background on my experience with the genre. Over ten years ago, in my teen years, I loved that novel- The Hunger Games– just as much as the next guy. Then I read its sequels, Catching Fire… and Mockingjay… and let’s just say that third book was a real letdown. It was so disappointing that I abandoned all YA novels and instead used old Hollywood movies, like Citizen Kane, and challenging science fiction novels for adults, such as those by Isaac Asimov and Greg Bear, as vessels for my teen angst. Fast forward to last year, I started getting curious about YA again. Since it seemed that most YA novels are popular among adults as well, I decided to give the genre another try. In the past year, YA has consistently disappointed me, with my top 3 least favorite novels off all time ALL being YA novels. There are only a handful of them I flat-out enjoyed: The Chaos Walking trilogy, The Illuminae Files trilogy, and… The Lunar Chronicles quartet.
So, given my harshness towards YA, I wanted to start off on a good note, so I made sure I covered a novel from an author whose previous works I already enjoyed. As you can tell, it’s a review of Renegades, published by Square Fish, and written by the author of the aforementioned Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer. Does this new series give as strong of a first impression as Lunar Chronicles‘ first book, Cinder?
For starters, just exactly HOW similar to My Hero Academia is this premise? In the city of Gatlon, people born with Quir- I mean- superpowers, who are called prodigies, are oppressed by society because that’s what humans love to do when they’re scared. A group called the Anarchists, led by Ace Anarchy, caused an uprising, naturally. A ragtag group of heroes called the Renegades took care of it. Ace Anarchy is now dead, and the OG Renegades run Gatlon as the Council.
Not angsty enough? Well, get this. The main protagonist is Ace’s niece, Nova Artino, who fights Renegades under the alias of Nightmare. On the flipside, we have Adrian Everhart, the adopted son of the most powerful Renegade in the world, All Mi- I mean- Hugh Everhart. He lives secretly as a renegade Renegade named the Sentinel, and is the rival of Nightmare, but ends up fighting other Renegades just about as often. And here’s the icing on the cake: Nova goes to Renegade academy as a spy and… gets recruited to Adrian’s own squad. Because of course.
Naturally, you’d expect it to be a dystopia, where the “heroes” are a corrupt governing body and the “villains” are the heroes. And it is, at least according to the narrative, which conveys this by constantly telling us over and over again about how corrupt the Council is but never showing us. From the actions we do see, the only corruption comes from random Renegades being high school bullies, but that instance is implied to actually be AGAINST Council regulations. In fact, the Council itself is the reason why Nova and Co. aren’t rotting in jail just for being Anarchists themselves. It’s contextualized poorly, and because of that, I’m willing to bet that there’s inevitably going to be some kind of massive conspiracy that makes the Council the corrupt governing body that Nova actually says they are. It’s still better than Scythe, which had an interesting premise of hired, legalized murderers in a world of immortality, but copped out by having a cackling madman of an antagonist that didn’t blur the line of good and evil, but made everything very black and white.
In terms of the actual writing, Renegades still has that Meyer touch. Similar to the Lunar Chronicles, I’m able to visualize characters and settings easily, however, the action scenes are a bit hard to imagine in terms of telling where people are in 3D space. The story starts off slow, but picks up at around the halfway point.
The characters are pretty generic. Be forewarned, however, that I am much a harsher critic of Western fiction than Eastern for some reason, even on the novels that I find really good. Nova is not as much of an utter snob as most of her YA cousins, but there’s definitely enough time to develop Stockholm-Syndrome-love with Adrian, and turn her into one of said cousins. Speaking of Adrian, he’s alright. He’s got a strong sense of goodwill but he’s also a bit reckless. Nova’s friends are the snobby YA cast incarnated as side characters. Ingrid is a really annoying Bakugo-type (literally; her Quirk is the same as his) who often causes contrived conflicts, and Honey, Phobia, and Leroy are more inconsequential than My Hero‘s Class 1-B. Adrian’s friends, Oscar and Ruby, are very unremarkable and exist just for there to be a second couple. Speaking of couples, Nova and Adrian’s relationship is going to be my least favorite aspect of the whole Renegade series because they spend so much time with each other while not realizing that they’re the very enemies that they’re each trying to find dirt on. It’s a trope that I didn’t like in American Dragon, and I still don’t like it now.
If you’ve enjoyed Red Queen, Shadow and Bone, or Divergent, then you’ll probably love Renegades. It doesn’t have the same chutzpah of The Lunar Chronicles, but it’s at least leagues better than most of what’s available on the YA market. The whole “teen-is-forced-to-be-something-that-they-are-not-for-some-reason” schtick carries a lot of inherent appeal.
The fact that the teaser at end of the book implies that the sequel, Archenemies, is going to be the “conclusion” to this story, when there’s a third installment on its way at the time of writing this blog, leaves me very concerned. But for now, Renegades is more than good enough if you want an angstier, Westernized My Hero Academia.