Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Dystopian, Teen/YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It’s the Earth of the distant future, and two groups populate the earth: the Reductionists, the victims of a genetic accident, are humans with diminished mental capacities. The Luddites are their overlords, the nobility of this society, who shun most technology. But now a third group has risen: the Post-Reductionists, the children of Reductionists, who have the same mental capacity as any Luddite. Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North doesn’t believe the Post-Reductionists are inferior in any way. In fact, she fell in love with one, Kai, but when he left four years ago, she chose to stay on her family’s estate, as it’s her responsibility. Now, Elliot is virtually running the North farm, and when a group of Post-Reductionists ask to rent part of the farm, Elliot can’t say no to the income. But what she doesn’t expect is that Kai will be with that, and that he’ll hold everything she says, does, and believes in complete contempt.
Diana Peterfreund has a unique ability to write for multiple audiences and age ranges. Though For Darkness Shows the Stars is being classified and marketed to a teen audience, it is just as appropriate and relevant for adults. After all, the novel is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set in a distant future where genetic experimentation has changed the population, and those in power are the people who survived because they shunned technology.
The setting Peterfreund created in For Darkness Shows the Stars is foreign, but not completely unrecognizable. The societal structure – landowner, servant, worker – might actually remind the reader of feudalism in Europe. It’s really impressive that Peterfreund created this unrecognizable world, and yet put elements that are so familiar into it. She’s created a rich, vast mythology behind Elliot’s world, and readers will clamor to discover more about it.
Elliot is a heartbreaking, amazing character that readers will absolutely fall in love with. From the beginning, it’s clear that she’s given up any hope she has at happiness for the North estate. And it’s not because she’s selfish or relishes being a member of the nobility, it’s because Elliot truly believes (for a very good reason) that she is the only thing standing between her father’s casual cruelty and the Reductionists and Post-Reductionists on the estate. They aren’t just her responsibility, they are her friends. Elliot has a very different view of these two social classes than do other Luddites; it’s refreshing to see how progressive she is, given how backwards facing other Luddites are.
But it’s not just that Elliott is a good person. Peterfreund writes her such that the reader gets to know her intimately. Her joys are that of the reader’s, as are her sorrows. The author makes her so realistic and writes her so beautifully that she becomes a part of the reader. They will ache for her as she faces insurmountable odds and hope that she will find some solace, some happiness in life, after all the sorrow that has been heaped on her.
The romance in For Darkness Shows the Stars is also very well done. It’s not a typical YA romance; Elliot keeps her head, and though she knows she is irrevocably in love with Kai, she also knows that her first responsibility is to the farm. She’s daring and amazing, and Peterfreund does an excellent job keeping the tension between the two high without creating any artificial-seeming barriers.
Even if you weren’t aware that For Darkness Shows the Stars is a retelling of Persuasion, or if you don’t care, it’s absolutely worth reading. Yes, Peterfreund may have taken the basics of the story, but she’s revamped the characters and created such a rich and detailed setting that this storyline is entirely her own. I certainly hope that Peterfreund will continue Elliot’s story, as she put so much thought into developing this world and the character, but regardless of her future writing choices, this is a book that is absolutely worth reading.
Other books by Diana Peterfreund: