AUTHOR: Diana Peterfreund
PUBLICATION DATE: June 12, 2012
SOURCE:SLJ review copy
GENRE: science fiction
GIVE IT TO: strong middle and high school readers
SUMMARY: After years of medical injections and surgeries, The Lost have finally paid the price for their hubris. The only people spared the diminished mental capacity of The Reduced are The Luddites, who shunned technology and innovation in favor of natural order. As a result, Luddites hold expansive estates and house The Reduced (and their offspring, some of whom are not Reduced) as slave labor.
Four years ago, eighteen-year old Elliot North refused to run away with her best friend Kai, who is a normal descendant of The Reduced (called “Posts”) and a servant on Elliot’s family’s estate. In the years since Kai’s departure, Elliot has accepted sole responsibility for the struggling estate and The Reduced who serve her family. Since technology is forbidden, Elliot’s options for advancing the estate are limited. When a fleet of former servants offers to rent the family’s shipyards, Elliot knows she cannot afford to refuse the money, and she is excited to discover that Kai is one of the fleet captains. But Elliot soon learns that Kai is not the boy she remembers, and, like Elliot, Kai hides plenty of secrets of his own.
WHAT I LIKED: Page-turner alert! Diana Peterfreund has really pulled off something incredible here: a post-apocalyptic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion? Yes, please! I love the way Peterfreund weaves the secret letters from forbidden childhood friends Kai and Elliot as a way to bridge the gap between the past and present. I’m not sure the exact setting, only that it is on an island and it is sometime in the future.
Peterfreund takes her time developing characters and underscoring their contrasting beliefs and social stations. Elliot is a super-strong and determined female lead, and heartthrob Kai will make the girls swoon. The political and social environments take some time to develop, but the plot mostly moves along at a steady clip. A large cast of well-developed characters and a few connected subplots will keep readers turning the pages right up to the end, making For Darkness Shows the Stars a solid choice for middle and high school libraries.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: For much of the book, I thought I would give it a solid 5-star rating. So why the 4-star rating? The book slips just a bit in the last 60 or so pages, and there just isn’t enough Kai toward the end to keep me happy. I really, really wanted to see Elliot and Kai attempting to make a go of it long before they actually do, and when it does finally happen, it doesn’t sizzle like I had hoped. The constant cycle of bickering and avoidance just goes on a little too long for me.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For Darkness Shows the Stars is a smart page-turner that will no doubt be a hit with strong middle and high school readers. No content concerns for middle school libraries.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: At the middle school level, For Darkness Shows the Stars is best for stronger readers. I have no doubt that by the end of this year, For Darkness Shows the Stars will be on several “Best of” lists, but struggling, reluctant, and “less savvy” middle school readers may have difficulty with philosophical concepts that are not spelled out immediately. Still, there are plenty of middle schoolers who will love this one (see the Readalikes listed below), and I plan to buy it for my middle school library when it comes out in June.
READALIKES: The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer); Incarceron (Catherine Fisher); Divergent (Veronica Roth); Ship Breaker (Paolo Bacigalupi)
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: very mild; some references to forced sexual relationships between master and servant, but they are so mild that younger teen readers may miss them altogether.
- Violence: none
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; at a party, some guests drink and get drunk