Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: The Shadow Society byMarie Rutkoski

Release date: October 16, 2012

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.
As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

I chose this book from my library for two  reasons:
1) The opening line of the Prologue: "Knowing what I know now, I'd say my foster mother had her reasons for throwing a kitchen knife at me."
 I mean, come on! How could I not want to know what that was all about?
2) The girl's boots on the cover. I have serious boot envy.

 When I started "The Shadow Society," I was worried it was going to be a rehash of a LOT of Young Adult novels I've read over the past few years.
 There were some pretty standard tropes happening:
We have a girl, Darcy Jones, who feels like she doesn't really belong anywhere.
Cue the arrival of a mysterious new guy at school, Connor  McCrea, who apparently either likes or loathes our heroine. It's surprising how many books for teens have this, "I am attracted to this guy who either likes me back or quite possibly wants to kill me" dynamic going on.
Despite this, she is irresistibly drawn to him. Of course.
They're paired together for a class project.
Wait, haven't I read this book before? I didn't have high hopes.

 And then Rutkoski hit me with the poetry. Specifically, T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Conn and Darcy work together on an English assignment centering based on this poem.
Y'all, I have a deep and abiding love for Prufrock. There was no way I was going to give up on the book after that sad little man showed up.
I'm really glad I didn't, because after a slow start, the book really started to grow on me. The characters started to grow on me. Darcy is a pretty angsty girl, and hard to warm up to at first. But she is also fiercely loyal to her friends, passionate about her art, and determined to find out about her past and figure out exactly who she is.
Conn turns out to be a more complicated character than we first believe, too. As Darcy's best friend Lily puts it, "You two sound like a pair of misfit toys who are going to end up breaking each other."
The secondary characters had some of the best lines, especially Jims, who serves up the comic relief. And every now and then, there would be a funny sentence that made me smile. Like this one by Darcy's friend Raphael, talking about Conn: "And, speaking of putting on acts, how's Mr. I Wear A Cologne and It's Called Mysterious?"

There are some things that did nag at me a bit. The way the Great Chicago Fire caused the dimensional rift between our world and the reality in which Conn and the Shades live is never really explained.
 Another thing that didn't exactly ring true for me was the outcome of the big climatic scene. It was a little Breaking Dawn-ish, since the climax was pretty anticlimactic. However, I do appreciate what Rutkoski was doing, giving us characters who solved problems with words and not violence.
 And since I only read books without strong language and sexual content, I also appreciate that this was a "clean" read.
If you go into the book ready to push past the slow start and not expecting a lot of wham-bang action Shade vs. human action (there's not any), I think you'll enjoy this book. It's a well-written novel with a vividly described setting and characters discovering who they are, where they came from, what they want, and what matters most in their lives.
There was a lot to enjoy, and despite my initial misgivings, I found myself thinking about the book for days after I finished it. For  me, that's always the sign of a worthwhile read.

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  1. That is a great first line. I would probably read the book based on that alone!

  2. Ha, such a great line! Great review too :)


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