Donna Gambale's Reviews > For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
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's review
Jun 16, 2012

really liked it
Read from June 12 to 13, 2012

Diana Peterfreund's FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS was pitched at BEA as a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen's PERSUASION. I've never read PERSUASION, but I'm quite the sucker for anything based on or inspired by a Jane Austen novel, especially when it's done well.

In short: DARKNESS didn't disappoint in the least.

You know how some books just give you feelings? I mean, all-caps FEELINGS? This one did.

It took me about thirty pages to become fully engrossed and fall in love with the story*, but when I did, I fell hard, and I finished the book in two sittings.

For me, Jane Austen novels are so fantastic because they have her trademark Triple Threat:

1. Characters you connect to and care about SO MUCH.
2. A world that immerses you completely.
3. Romance that makes you clutch at your heart in torment.

DARKNESS had the Jane Austen Triple Threat, no doubt about it.

1. Character Connection

When Elliott felt flustered or embarrassed, I cringed. When her heart ached, mine ached for her. When she defended herself, I felt proud. You get the idea. Throughout the book, Elliot's torn between her responsibilities and her dreams, between what she's been taught and what she believes, and it made her completely relatable as a YA heroine. She rocks, flaws and all, because she tries so hard to do right by the people who depend on her.

And it wasn't just Elliott who is well-developed. There's a large cast of characters, and they are all written with depth. Even minor characters are so well-nuanced that I remember all their names, which never happens for me. Plus, there's a distinct class hierarchy among the Luddites, Post-Reductionists (Posts), and the Reduced, which enhanced each character's background and point of view.

2. Another World

When you hear "post-apocalyptic" and "Jane Austen" in the same sentence, you have one of two reactions: "come again?" or "that sounds awesome!"

I wasn't sure what to expect. Would DARKNESS feel super-modern a la Clueless? But the premise worked perfectly. Peterfreund's future, post-apocalyptic world feels almost historical because it's run by Luddites, who shun the technology and scientific advancements that led to the Reduction.

The class structure, strict rules of conduct, formal speech, and old-fashioned clothing also echo Austen's world, as do the shifting social norms and the desire for something more than what the societal limitations allow. (Wow, did that sound like the sentence of someone who's written a LOT of English Lit papers.)

An apocalypse brought on by genetic engineering is eerily plausible, and I loved the hints of the world's pre-apocalyptic glory. Overall, the worldbuilding is deft and detailed, without overloading the reader. I'd love to see the Post-Reduction world beyond Elliott's island, which is a neon blinking sign of quality storytelling!

3. Bringing the Swoon

Elliott and Kai have a complicated past and, after a four-year separation, an even more complicated present. Like with Elizabeth and Darcy, sometimes you want to reach into the book and shake them until they wake up and smell the swoon. But that's what I went into the book hoping for, and that's what I love: the torturous "Oh my God you're perfect for one another so please notice and do something about it!" feeling.

Peterfreund developed their relationship like a pro, both through childhood letters and especially through their present-day interactions, fraught with tension and conflicted emotions and old anger and misunderstandings. It's the most delightful kind of romantic torment, and it's executed perfectly.

So that's the DARKNESS Triple Threat! Just in case you weren't sure, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book.

* If we want to be precise, page 44 was when I knew there was no turning back. I felt my first moment of full-on, Austen-worthy, heart-clutching swoon. I was done for.

This review was originally posted at First Novels Club.

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Reading Progress

06/12/2012 page 125
31.0% "I'm so, so hooked. Loving this post-apocalyptic world and the romantic tension."

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