Alexis Lee's Reviews > For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
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Apr 13, 13

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Read in August, 2012

What did I think?

Shivers.

This is the first dystopian that I have read that has gotten everything right. Don't even bother reading my review and go read this book already; because you're wasting precious time that could be spent slowly enjoying what has got to be one of my favorite novels of 2012.
When I say everything, I do mean everything - this book was such a blend of perfect that my fingers are shaking from the aftermath of the awesome.

By blend of perfect, I mean:

A well-built, thoroughly described, completely plausible, gripping-and-gritty dystopian world.
Lead characters who grow into themselves and into heroes, characters that are dynamic, interesting, endearing, and more importantly, real and believable.
Romance that works with the story, not against it - romance that is important to the plot, but not the center of it, and one that ultimately spurs the lead characters to learn and change for the better.
An array of secondary characters who lead the story on, provide important insights, support the main characters in believable ways, and who serve as great foils/complements to the leads.
Realistically-written emotions, feelings, and thoughts, full of the warmth, pain, happiness, uncertainty, and regret of everyday life.


Also, I found the writing to be as cliche-free as they come. I've been bombarded by cliches lately, so perhaps you know how I feel. (Ugh, the YA genre. I don't know why I keep coming back...)

Yes - this is heavily influenced by Jane Austen's Persuasion. Yes, if you liked Persuasion, you would be inclined to like this book, because Peterfreund manages to capture the essence and emotions of Austen's Persuasion brilliantly. But I rather think this book is more than that. At its core it is a dystopian novel - a brilliant, brilliant dystopian novel, one that captures, perfectly, how the people of a dystopia might start to realize change, to question systems, to just be more, without the extensive need for over-bloody/vicious riots against The Big Oppressor.

Throughout my read I was stunned at how plausible the whole scenario was, because really, it was a dystopia that was brought about by the escalation of a very current and controversial field - genetic modification. The best part of this wonderful spin on the dystopian universe novel was that it did not shy away from all the gritty, grey areas of genetic modification.

So Modification is wrong, you say? Well, yes - the world as we know it has crumbled due to the aftereffects of too much genetic experimenting, and the people who have undergone gene modification to alter their bodies have now been rendered dumb as punishment. But how about experimenting to get crops with a higher yield to feed an increasing number of people? To breed animals that are healthier and more productive? To modify humans to be immune to certain diseases?
What, then, do you do with a race of people that have been struck dumb, and what do you do with their children, who may be either born normal, or just as dumb as them? What is the right way to treat these people? Who is to say whether we are being kind, or just condescending?
Unfortunately for us, there are no clear answers in real life - and I am so glad that this novel acknowledges that. Peterfreund isn't afraid to speak from both sides of the story and show the what each side has to offer, and she isn't afraid of prodding those little grey areas that exist in her plot and her characters. Such a refreshing approach to controversy, when usually you get things handed to you in black-and-white terms: This is good. This is bad. Good is entirely good, and bad is entirely bad.

The concept is more sedate than most dystopians, perhaps - no riots? No rebellions? Really? But this novel didn't need that one, big, showdown that most dystopians and even most YA novels aspire to. It is more a ripple of changing ideology, a murmur of hope and future possibilities, people evolving as they are wont to do, than a physical rebellion.

Don't even get me started on how wonderfully the characters are fleshed out and written; because I'll go on for another three paragraphs. I really will. I adored the female lead character. I loved the guy, too (although it was more towards the end that I started to like him, for most of the book he was a jerky jerkface 100x worse than capt. Wentworth ever was,), but I'm going to have to say that this is probably one of the few female leads that I am proud of in a dystopian/YA context...like....ever. (Katniss was sort of a yes-almost-but-not-quite-really sort of thing.) I am so glad this was written: like you have no idea. My feelings for female lead characters often veer down the why-is-she-even-still-alive path, but this girl? She, I'm proud of. Authors, *This* is how you properly write a female character. She is both vulnerable and strong. She can be rational. She can be compassionate. She does not cry over everything. She can live without her boyfriend/truelove/soulmate (without even once contemplating suicide, I'd like to emphasize.) And she doesn't have to be Miss Perfect Rainbow Unicorn that everyone loves.

5 gazillion stars. I seriously, seriously, love this book to distraction, and I think you will, too.

*Edit: I discussed this book with a friend of mine, and we seem to share the same qualms about the ending - possibly the only bone that I'm picking with this book - and its such a small bone, but its there. (view spoiler)
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