THE SHADOW SOCIETY
Paranormal Young Adult
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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 . . .
The Shadow Society is a story that starts out with us walking down a familiar path, a new boy arriving at school and instantly giving off hostile vibes whenever he’s in the presence of our protagonist, but before too long this tale seems to meet a fork in the road, and luckily for us, chooses to deviate from that familiar path and veer off into the darkness and mystery of the unknown. Acting as the catalyst for our shift in circumstances is Conn’s painful betrayal of Darcy, luring her into a vulnerable position (a particular cruelty given her lengthy history of being unwanted as she bounced from foster home to foster home) and then figuratively stabbing her in the back, bleeding every ounce of trust out of her and injecting her with the poison of constant suspicion – a sickness that further impairs an already stunted ability to put faith in those around her not to do her harm. Thus, we spend much of our time reading with our emotions at full boil, with anger, resentment, and finally a spark of hope blending together to ensure we can’t turn the pages fast enough.
Darcy is a young woman we’re not sure we’re going to care for after our somewhat rocky start with her, her attraction to a boy who seems to greatly dislike her and is repeatedly inexplicably harsh causing us to roll our eyes a bit in frustration. After he uses her feelings to shred the innocence that is her ignorance of her past thanks to her memory loss and replaces it with a brutal and physically violent new reality, we find ourselves solidly in her corner, impressed with how she deals with the pain he’s caused. Instead of seeking to inflict pain back on Conn (though he rightly deserves it), she stays level-headed, using her sharp tongue for a few well-aimed cuts and then backing off before she says or does something more than she can live with.
Her shaken trust is something that reverberates through the pages and rattles us to our bones, our startled anger that Conn couldn’t initially see the heart of the girl through the propaganda he’s been fed something that keeps our blood simmering throughout. Conn, for his part, is painfully brilliant at incurring our wrath and then soothing our heated tempers with small acts of kindness, forcing our hearts to plummet to our feet one page only to force a lump into our throats at his seeming earnestness the next. Though Darcy’s anger subsides a bit before ours, it still takes her a while to see Conn in a different light, and it’s an incredibly tense and rewarding journey we experience as two people on opposite sides of a line dare to put their toes right up to it and eventually step over together.
The one minor complaint with this story that keeps the rating from being higher is the lack of explanation for the utter hatred between humans and Shades. Yes, the Shades are depicted as a paranormal terrorist organization and therefore don’t necessarily need a logical list of reasons for their actions, but we’re given absolutely no information as to what has caused the rift, or how humans discovered the existence of Shades in the first place. Was it simply a fear of that which is different that caused humans to spurn the Shades and earn their brutal retaliation, or was there an event that sparked a torch that still burns? We are given an explanation for many aspects of a Shade’s existence, just not the cause of their feelings, leaving us floundering without a foundation to stand on with regard to the war. Small drawback aside, The Shadow Society is intense and intriguing, and I am greatly looking forward to whatever Ms. Rutkoski chooses to create for us next.