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Reading Pathways

Reading Pathways: Marie Lu

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

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. But all of them feature diverse characters, incredibly detailed worlds, and high stakes. Marie Lu is a Chinese American author who was an early advocate for the need for more diverse books. She’s combatted this need first-hand with the many Asian, queer, and disabled characters she’s written about in her books.

With 13 amazing young novels to choose from, deciding which Marie Lu book to begin with is no easy feat. Honestly, there’s not a wrong choice among the bunch. And, naturally, a lot of your decision will rely on your personal reading taste. If you adore fantasy but feel “meh” about science fiction, you may prefer The Kingdom of Back over Warcross, for instance. Or, if you love DC comics or Batman, then by all means pick up Batman: Nightwalker first, even though I didn’t include it in my list. The three suggestions for where to start with Marie Lu that I did include, however, are a video game inspired YA story, an intricately fantastical historical story, and the dystopian blockbuster that started Lu’s writing career. Happy reading!

Warcross by Marie Lu Cover


My suggestion of where to begin with Marie Lu’s books is this video game inspired, YA science fiction novel. It’s set in a futuristic Japan where everyone has become obsessed with a game called “Warcross.” Emika Chen has been following the game since she was a child. But as a hacker trying to survive in a competitive field, she can’t focus on it as much as she would like. But when she hacks into the championships of the game in order to make some money she desperately needs, everything changes. The game’s creator asks her to join the official tournament as a spy for him. And the plot she uncovers is both dangerous for her and the entire Warcross universe. This book is fast-paced, exciting, and full of amazing world building. It’s a great story to start with if you are interested in reading a book by Marie Lu.

Book Cover for The Kingdom of Back

The Kingdom of Back

Next, read one of the most unique books written by Lu. This historical fantasy borrows from the life of the Mozart siblings: Wolfgang and Nannerl. It focuses on Nannerl who is as talented as her younger brother, but, as a woman in the 18th century, is forbidden to compose her own music. She won’t even be allowed to perform once she reaches marriageable age. Despite this, all she wants is to follow her dream of becoming a famous musician. A fairy appears from a magical land offering her the chance for all her dreams to come true. And so she is thrust into the magical world of Back — a fantasy land actually invented by the real Mozart siblings. But straddling two worlds is harder than Nannerl expected. And she begins to doubt her path as she learns her success may come at the expense of her beloved brother.

Legend book cover


Finally, go back to the beginning with Marie Lu’s debut novel. This dystopian science fiction novel was an instant hit with readers and for good reason. There is even a graphic novel version of this series. It borrows from Les Miserables and Romeo and Juliet to tell the story of June and Day. June is a wealthy girl and military prodigy being prepared for her future fighting for the Republic. Day is their world’s most wanted criminal and the prime suspect in the recent murder of June’s older brother. June seeks to find Day and get revenge. Meanwhile, Day is just trying to keep himself and his younger brother alive. But when their path’s finally cross, Day and June learn secrets that will change their world forever.

Any of these three books are wondering places to start with Marie Lu. And, once you read one of the books on this list, I’m sure you will want to read all of them. For more books to get you started with popular authors, check out our guide to Taylor Jenkins Reids and Ruth Sepetys novels.