"Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows. Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake. Some worship us, think us children of the gods. But all know us."
This quote is the first piece of information we receive about the Young Elites. It foreshadows much of what we come to learn about Young Elites over the course of the book. For one thing, the speaker mentions the spectrum of feelings that exist for the Young Elites. Some hate them, and wish to persecute them through burnings and hangings. We witness this persecution firsthand throughout the novel. However, the speaker also talks about how the Young Elites are worshipped. This establishes how being a Young Elite is both a curse and a blessing.
"She’s a malfetto...No one will care."
Like other persecuted peoples, the malfetto are in the contradictory position of being both hyper-visible and invisible. When they are being targeted for violence and bigotry, the malfettos are very much in the public eye. As evidenced by the scores of people present for Adelina’s trial, people pay attention when malfettos are being victimized. Simultaneously however there are many blind eyes when breaches of law involving malfettos occur, as typified by this quote. The man is saying that no one will care if Adelina’s father gives his malfetto daughter away before she turns seventeen, as Kenettran law dictates. So while people would come in droves to see Adelina burned alive, no one would notice if she were forced into an illegal sexual relationship.
“To the north, the snowy Skylands. To the south, the sweltering Sunlands. Between them lie the island nations of the Sealands, jewels of wealth and trade in a world of extremes.”
The words of Etienne of Ariata helps bring to life the world The Young Elites is set in, the world that Lu has created. This passage suggests that the next two books in the series may take place in settings other than Kenettra. We are informed of the physical differences between the three regions of The Young Elites, which raises questions about other differences these regions may have. Finally, Etienne describes the Sealands, where Kenettra is located, as “a world of extremes.” This phrase is highlighting the stark differences that exist in Kenettra, such as the ones between the malfetto and everyone else.
“You are not an abomination. You are not merely a malfetto. That is why they fear you. The gods gave us powers, Adelina, because we are born to rule.”
While Enzo’s words are ostensibly to Adelina, it feels as if he is also speaking to himself. The malfetto have had their humanity stripped from them. Some, like Enzo and Adelina, have been told by their families and friends that they are worthless, that they deserve to die. Enzo took the anguish and anger he felt when his family cast him aside and channeled it towards achieving his ambitions. To do this however, he had to completely rewrite the dominant discourse of those around him. We can see him doing this in the first two lines of the quote. The rest of the quote showcases Enzo’s thoughts about the place of the Young Elites in the world. Perhaps heavily influenced by his former princely status, Enzo believes that the gods created the Young Elites to rule the world. This doctrine of a divine right to rule appears also in the Dagger Society pledge, which Enzo penned. Finally, Enzo references the ‘fear is power’ theme when he says, “that is why they fear you.” He knows the persecution of the malfetto goes beyond fear of their physical attributes and also includes fear of the impact they can have on the social and political order of the world.
“So. Tell me, little wolf. Do you want to punish those who have wronged you?”
This moment is significant because it illustrates how Enzo viewed Adelina in this specific moment, and what he believes she can do in the future. After hearing that Adelina’s mother called her a “little wolf," Enzo begins to use it too. While at times it seems affectionate, at others he is using the nickname to goad Adelina or provoke her. By using her childhood name at certain moments Enzo makes it clear he sees Adelina as a child, as someone lacking control over herself and her abilities. He uses “little wolf” as a device to challenge Adelina to grow up and embrace her powers and her darkness. Because although Enzo thinks she is a “little wolf," he can also see a future where Adelina is strong enough to punish those that have wronged [her]," including powerful people and entities such as the Inquisition and the Kenettran monarchy. He sees a future where she is no longer just an innocent little wolf hiding behind her mother’s skirts but rather is an avenging angel of malfetto justice.
“A newborn babe takes its first breath / and creates a storm that rains down death”
Throughout the novel the motif “threads of connection” appears multiple times and is referenced by many characters. This quote is one of the more dramatic examples in the book of the “threads of connection” concept. Enzo’s point is that any action, no matter how seemingly innocuous, can have reverberating effects around the globe. He wants to remind Adelina that her personal choices and actions have the potential to impact not only the Daggers but also the entire world. Judging from the ending of The Young Elites, this quote is laden with foreshadowing.
“I am a deformed creature.”
Teren’s self-loathing and self-repudiation are on display in this quote. He staunchly believes that he and other malfettos are abominations not worthy of life. His hate of the malfettos has religious roots. Interestingly, while Teren includes himself in his verbal condemnation of malfettos, he doesn’t seem to include himself in his plans for eradicating malfettos. While he does practice self-flagellation as a means of atoning for his self-professed sins, he doesn’t think he needs to die in order to make amends. This is a double standard fueled in part by Queen Giulietta’s promise to Teren that she will ask the gods to forgive him, if he serves her.
“He [Teren] says the Daggers are using me. But he is using me too. This is the real reason why I cannot seem to give him what he wants. It is not so much that I am protecting the Daggers. It is that I am tired of being used.”
This passage signifies the beginning of a turn in Adelina’s character development. She is no longer allowing Teren to manipulate her with her love for Violetta and her loyalty to the Dagger Society. She is shaking off his hold on her not only for the sake of the Dagger Society, but also for her own integrity and pride as a person. In this selection Adelina also shows that she differentiates between how the Dagger Society is using her and how Teren is using her. While the last line suggests that she repudiates any attempts by others to use her, earlier lines suggest that she is fine with being used by the Dagger Society, because the time and affection she receives from them outweighs what she gives.
“My sister is an Elite.”
The brevity of this line is ironic, because it packs the narrative punch of a much longer excerpt. With 5 words Lu takes everything we thought we knew about the Amouteru sisters and inverts it on its head. For most of the book Adelina holds up Violetta as being her antithesis. She is scarred while Violetta is perfect, she is dark while her sister is light, and, perhaps most importantly, she is a Young Elite while her sister is normal. With the revelation that Violetta too is a Young Elite, the house of cards that Adelina was creating about the nature of Young Elites and their predilection for violence is toppled.
“If you cast me out of the Dagger Society, then I will form my own. I am tired of losing. I am tired of being used, hurt, and tossed aside. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt. My turn.”
One of Adelina’s central struggles as a character in The Young Elites is her desire to belong and her seeming inability to do so. Each time that she reaches out for support, protection, and love from others, she is either betrayed, or asked to give something in return. In this passage Adelina is declaring that she will no longer be the one used or hurt by the actions and demands of others. This is a turning point for her character, but because it happens near the end of the book we have to wait and see how Adelina further develops from this point.
The Young Elites Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Young Elites is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.