Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Reviewed by Maggie: April 25, 2013
Published June 12, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
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I first heard about this book a year ago through Catie's fantastic review. As a fan of Persuasion, I figured this was an automatic skip. I mean, come on, Wentforth? And why is Coco Rocha modeling a dress on the cover? In space? Fast forward a year later, I saw this was available at my e-library and thought, Why not? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the DNF Shelf. I loved it. And the thing is, objectively, I still agree with the points Catie made -- but sometimes, you have to go with your gut. In my case, my stomach was doing backflips as I read the scenes between Wentforth and Elliot.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth are kept apart by class differences and societal expectations. I thought Peterfreund's approach of creating a feudalistic dystopia was brilliant. It's a modern take that makes the antiquated values that kept Anne Elliot in her place relevant. In For Darkness Shows the Stars, the world as we know it was destroyed by people who tried to go too far with scientific and technological advancements. In trying to unlock the secrets to the genetic code, people began experimenting on one another. The ERV procedure was given to babies to make them better, faster, stronger. However, the procedure resulted in generations of people being "reduced," their brains turned to mush. This became known as the Reduction. The people who refused ERV, called Luddites, ended up rebuilding in the aftermath of the Reduction and taking power. They blamed the reduced for trying to play God. The Norths are a prestigious old Luddite family. The Wentforths are CORs who live on the North estate. CORs are the children of the reduced, people who have finally escaped the effects of ERV generations later.

Diana Peterfreund knows her source material. Rather than try to compete with THE LETTER from Persuasion, she gives us a bunch of letters from the time Elliot and Kai are young. The Luddite baron's daughter and the COR mechanic's son can't be seen socializing so they leave letters for each in a knot in the barn wall. The absence of these letters once Kai leaves the North estate is felt as much as the absence of Kai himself. Elliot always glances at the knot when she enters the barn even though Kai has been gone for years. It's a detail I love so much. It's a longing for something that's long gone combined with a tiny hope of maybe.

One other significant change that I thought worked really well for a modern YA audience is the character of Elliot. There were things Anne Elliot couldn't do or be because of the times, her station, and her family. Elliot North is still under the thumb of her father but she has some independence from running the farm. She also chooses to stay behind, though it hurts her, because the responsibility she feels to the farm and everyone living on it. However, that's not to say she doesn't feel the loss of Kai acutely.
"His shadow fell across her lap, and she traces its edges with her hands."
That's all she allows herself. It's such a heartbreaking gesture.

A few years ago when Noelle was trying to get me to read Persuasion, she called Wentworth "a secret handshake." Diana Peterfreund goes one step further and makes him sleek and modern.
For Darkness Shows the Stars surprised me with its creative retelling of a classic. It's the remake I didn't know I wanted but now I can't wait for the next one. I am half agony, half hope.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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