If you buy one book based on my recommendations in 2012, let For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund be it. Friends, this book pierces my soul. I took my sweet time with this read, because I feel there’s a disservice if you read it in one big gulp instead of taking time to emote and process those feelings. Diana Peterfreund retells Jane Austen’s Persuasion in post-apocalyptic fashion.
The world that main character Elliot North lives in is stuck. Elliot is a Luddite, who are people exactly like the Luddites of 19th Century English history – afraid of technology, change and innovation. She is between a rock and a hard place – bound to her duty to take care of the farm estate because her power hungry father Baron North and flighty, image obsessed older sister Tatiana won’t do it. Yet, Elliot years for something more. When a group of Posts (read the book to know this term) ask to rent her grandfather’s shipyard, an old friend/love walks back into Elliot’s life under a new name bringing old pain with him. Elliot must then question her values and all she’s ever known.
Elliot North is a character who kept me anxious. I was so invested in her arc, that I was literally scared to turn the pages out of trepidation for what would happen to her. I was indigent on her behalf quite often. The reason for this is that to me, Elliot is very likeable. She’s self-sacrificing to fault and very rational. She cares very deeply for her people, which is actually often to her detriment. Diana Peterfreund has such a way with words and conveys Elliot’s pain so that it strikes you right at the heart. Yet, the hope I felt for her situation to get better and improve kept pervading.
“No. She refused to believe it. Hating her now was bad enough, but she could survive it. She’d been doing well these past four years, like a fallen tree that clung to the ground and continued to grow, despite all odds. Elliot’s roots were buried deep, and nothing Kai could say would convince her that the soil was any less solid.”
I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the romance. Elliot was once very close with Kai, one of her estate’s Posts. Kai left after Elliot’s mother dies, inviting Elliot to go with him. She remains at home carrying the torch for him. When Kai returns with the Cloud Fleet, he’s a different man and a new name – Captain Malakai Wentforth. Captain Wentforth is cold to Elliot, inflicting emotional pain on her.
Yet, interspersed between the chapters are letters that tell us another story – a story of love, questioning, and friendship. They tell a story of two young kids inhabiting different classes and different worlds who want to escape their societal bonds, who look to the stars to char their way.
See, Kai didn’t win me over at first. I thought he was fairly abhorrent towards Elliot, whom I cared deeply about and was invested in. But as the real Kai, the past Kai was revealed in his letters, I began to understand exactly why he made the choices he did as well as his treatment of Elliot.
There are so many obstacles in the way in For Darkness Shows The Stars and such a long, languid build to the ending and ultimate payoff. If you’ve read or know the gist of Persuasion by Jane Austen you know the ending and you know about the letter. Both appear in For Darkness Shows The Stars, the letter making me sob with emotion and joy and feeling the flutter within of a perfect resolution.
For Darkness Shows The Stars left me pondering class, change and the meaning of the book beyond the romance. We see the estates of the Island where the book takes place — where there are Luddites who are the ruling class, the Reduced who are basically the slave class and are low functioning and the Posts who are children of the Reduced but highly functioning. We see the Luddites are deeply afraid of change and technology and innovation because of the tragedy it unleashed many years ago. Why should the Luddites be guardians of the Reduced as though it is their burden? Also as the Posts are cognizant how is it okay to keep them in servitude? How do they justify that? We see the Posts who chafe at being second class citizens, who wish to stretch their wings and create. One ends up questioning and wondering while reading whether we are meant to innovate and stretch our boundaries and change or would that mean we as humans are playing at being God?
Diana Peterfreund’s latest is a book I will carry inside me for a very long time. For Darkness Shows The Stars is a story that seeps into your bones, that puts questions in your brain, causing you to examine it on a deeper level. To me, it has accomplished all of the things I want a YA book I am reading to do — it made me care, made me think and most of all it made me swoon.
Disclosure: Received for review.
Other reviews of For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund:
The Book Swarm – “A star-crossed love if there ever was one.”
Pure Imagination – “With every chapter it made me fall for it even more.”
Janicu’s Book Blog – “things are bound to go off script. And they do, in the best way”
Anna Reads – “My heart is still recovering.”