Excerpt: Legend — Author’s Craft Essay by Natasha Epstein

Crime and forbidden love. The perfect “chick flick” plot. The book Legend, however, is something more. Legend, by Marie Lu, tells the story of a renegade boy named Day, his young street-crime partner Tess, and a Republic (government) spy-in-training named June. When Day is framed in the murder of June’s brother Mathias, June attempts to find Day only to fall in love with him while capturing him. In Legend, Lu uses symbolism, revealing actions, and flashbacks to represent Day’s feelings.

A couple of examples of symbolism in Legend are the character Tess, and Day’s pendant. Tess is a symbol for Day’s want for his family (most of whom thinks he are dead), and his subconscious want for safety. Day treats Tess like a younger sibling, much like he would have treated his younger brother if he (Day) still lived with his family. Day’s pendant, an old quarter coin sealed in a metal casing, is a symbol for trust. It is a symbol for trust because Dad’s father, the person who gave Day his pendant, trusted Day enough to give him a valuable object that the government would probably confiscate if they got their hands on it.

Two examples of revealing actions are when Day is experimented on by the government, and when Day’s brother sacrifices himself for Day. Day is experimented on by the government because he got a perfect score on his Trial, a test of physical and mental well-being all ten-year-olds receive. The government does not tell Day he got a perfect score, and instead claims he completely failed, and they have to take him to a “labor camp”.Of course, the government’s assertion that they’re taking Day to a labor camp is a lie, as they simply experiment on him to try and see what makes him so physically and mentally well-off. Day escapes their experimenting, and takes to the streets. I believe this ordeal, from the experiments to the discovery that the government lies represent Day’s fear, as the experiences scarred him physically, as well as taking away his ten-year-old innocence and replacing it with the truth of a corrupt government. When Day’s brother, John, sacrifices himself for Day, the action represents love. The action occurred when Day, June, and John were trying to escape a government building before Day was supposed to be executed. John, seeing that they did not have enough time and needed a distraction to escape, dresses as Day and is executed in Day’s place. This action represents love because it shows John really is, or was, “willing to die” for Day.
Finally, some flashbacks Day experiences are one of a mean Republic officer and one of his first crime. In the first flashback, Day remembers accidentally hitting an officer with a small paper ball he was playing with, and talking back to the officer afterward. This results in the officer taking the family’s dinner – a whole chicken, a treat for their poor family. This flashback shows Day’s anger, as Day did next to nothing wrong and yet their hard-earned meal was taken. Later, a flashback of Day’s first crime, throwing an ice ball dipped in gasoline through a window shows Day’s pride, as criminal activity was a way for him to get back at the government without losing anything personally.

Lu’s novel Legend thus uses symbolism, revealing actions, and flashbacks to show Day’s emotions. Even though the most people would think a novel with a combination of love and crime melodramatic, Legend is not. Readers are drawn into the story from the beginning through the use of intricate character personalities and subtle foreshadowing. I believe the novel was enhanced by the use of these different techniques and that they also resulted in providing the reader a different, deeper story.

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Untitled Poetry by Natasha Epstein

Watch the people
with their petty fights
Watch the towns
the little arguments about what belongs to who.

Watch the cities
the states
the countries
all fighting
all yelling
all bombing each other into oblivion
why can’t they stop?

Why can’t they
just sit back, just watch,
observe the world
zoom out
they’ll see
see beyond their own for once.

Look at our planet
Look.
It’s just a revolving sphere.
What if you could just
reach out, touch it, and
turn it off kilter?

Imagine all of us
falling against each other,
against the sky.
Our entire lives flung into chaos
just because of
one
tiny
push.

A trek through Greece by Natasha Epstein

 

One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. I was walking across the rough terrain of the mountains of Greece. The village was very simple, with only a few one-story stone houses, but that’s normal for a hill as tall as this; there isn’t much space to build on up here. A few animal pens made of sticks are laid out next to the houses. The pens looks like a children’s game of lincoln logs; the corners are crossed to help keep the sticks upright and the sheep, goats, and pigs in. I kick a small pebble with my foot on the rocky trail. Sweat drips down my neck. The air is dry and smells like olives and pig dung, and the sun is beating down on my back like someone lit a campfire on the back of my shirt. To my left I see an old man tending his goats. On my right is a shepherd leading his young lambs. The lambs cries echo in my ears like a baby crying for milk. As I reach the edge of the plateau, my eyes look up and out over the gorgeous view. I can see my aunt’s house as a tiny speck in the distance. The valley is a sea of green with little brown and tan flecks of houses scattered across it like fish swimming in the ocean. My foot slips and I feel myself sliding down the hill on the loose rocks and dirt. I feel like I’m moving so fast that my rear end will catch fire from the friction. At the bottom, I cough and wave my hands to clear some of the dust rising like smoke and I realize I’m in an olive orchard. I sit in the shade of some of the olive trees and unpack my snack of barley bread and grapes. I saved some because I don’t know long it take to reach my aunt’s house and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick up more food on the way. Eventually the sun slips over the trees and fades, and bright pinpoints of light begin to appear across the now-dark sky. I put my head down on a large root of an olive tree and let my eyelids close. I wake up to a bird chirping in my ear and pecking at my sack of food. I shoo it away and stand up. The sun shines brightly and I see a small cottage. I wonder if I could trade a few grapes for more barley bread. I run to it, and the door is answered by an old woman. She smiles, and accepts a few of the grapes, then gives me an entire loaf of barley bread and a bottle of olive oil to trade at the market. As I continue, I start to see a market ahead. It is perched at the top of a large mountain. I climb carefully up, not wanting to sled on soil again. I see a dip in the road, and smile to myself as I step around it, and kick a bit of dirt and pebbles into it. I stop quickly at the market, taking just enough time to give a man the olive oil for two large bunches of grapes. I see my aunt’s house end of the road at the bottom of the mountain. But, I am tired. I start slowly down the mountain. Each foot feels as heavy as a bag of bricks. I sigh and finally reach the bottom of the mountain. I look up and see my aunt’s house at the end of the road. With a renewed energy, I run towards it. Then, I feel my feet come out from under me again as a few pebbles are momentarily trapped underneath. I slide for a moment with my eyes squeezed shut. When I open them, dust is still around me but my aunt’s smiling face is leaning out the door of the house.