Critics, fans of the book, and even Marie Lu agree that Adelina Amouteru is not your typical heroine. When describing her writing process for The Young Elites, Lu says that she wanted to write the story of a villain, not a hero. Adelina most certainly fits the bill, with her complacency with using violence to get what she wants and her rising body count. Many comparisons between Adelina and Magneto from the X-MEN franchise have been drawn, despite the different universes the two characters inhabit and their physical differences. This is because, in the character of Adelina, people see the characteristics and qualities of a villain, or "bad guy."
Yet, Adelina is the star of The Young Elites trilogy. We empathize with her as we would with the heroine of another novel. How do we as readers justify this? Adelina is what the literary world calls an anti-hero or anti-heroine. Also known as a 'flawed hero', the anti-hero is a character archetype that has been around since the early days of Greek theater. The anti-hero is called such because, unlike the typical, quintessential hero, they are morally flawed in some way. While the hero strives to reach higher states of being, the anti-hero pursues earthly things. Finally, while the goal of the hero is to liberate people from tyranny and corruption, the anti-hero’s goal is to take possession of the tyrannical or corrupt entity and redirect it towards their own agenda.
Adelina’s character flaws are her use of fear to fuel her powers, her inner darkness that revels in suffering, and her belief in the maxim 'the ends justify the means'. When she and Violetta manage to escape from Teren and his Inquisitors, instead of staying under the radar, she plans to exact revenge and wreck havoc. Finally, numerous instances in The Young Elites tell us to expect Adelina’s ambition to play more of a role in future books. At the end of the The Young Elites, she ostensibly only wants to stop Teren’s genocide of malfettos. But with Enzo dead and no clear inheritor of the throne if Giulietta is removed, who knows what her ambition might lead her to do?
In all these ways Adelina Amouteru joins generations of literary and pop culture icons that stand more in the dark than in the light.