When the world keeps Marie Lu up at night, she holds onto what disturbs her and spins her worries into epic YA tales like the popular Legend series. Now, Lu is back with Skyhunter (Roaring Brook, Sept.), a new, dark tale, and sharing a message at BookExpo about the value of dystopian tales during challenging times.

“I write dystopia to exaggerate something about our real world,” Lu says, “and then fantasize about how to fix that problem by creating a story around it.”

In Skyhunter, Lu tells the story of a young woman who fights for her country to build a better world, even though her nation is deeply imperfect. The idea for the book came about when Lu watched Khizr Khan speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about his son, Humayun, who was killed attempting to save fellow soldiers while serving in Iraq.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about how many young soldiers, both in our history and now, march to war to defend a nation that does not offer them the respect they deserve, who nevertheless will still lay down their lives for the rest of us,” Lu says. “This thought haunted me then and haunts me still.”

By wrestling with Humayun Khan’s story as the foundation for her fictional tale, Lu hopes to share a positive message, even if the journey is fraught. “The difference between dystopia in reality and in fiction is that the writer has complete power to change the latter, and the reader can see characters using their own power and determination to fix what’s broken,” she says. “You can finish the book with the hope that yes, in spite of everything, we can survive this, we can conquer the seemingly impossible, we can come out of this as better humans, and this is how we do it.”

Thursday, May 28, 5:30–7 p.m. Marie Lu is a panelist at the Children’s Book & Author Dinner, live online at facebook.com/bookexpo.