A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the dystopian world in For Darkness Shows the Stars is a feudal society in which the lords, called Luddites, for decades have eschewed technology and used mute, unintelligent people called the Reduced as their slaves. Questions about human rights and scientific progress influence many of the characters' life choices. The novel was inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, and readers of that classic will recognize many plot points (though not all: Most noticeably, the persuasion that drives Austen's Anne Elliot to make an important choice is absent here). But it's certainly not necessary to have read Persuasion to enjoy For Darkness Shows the Stars. As for sex and violence, prostitution and rape of the Reduced is alluded to but not discussed in graphic detail. Luddites are allowed to own guns, and at one point one character threatens another with a pistol.
What's the story?
In the dystopia of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, Elliot was born a Luddite, one of the privileged class of people who survived the Wars of the Lost and are allowed to own property and people. Her best friend has always been Kai, who was born to work for someone else. Kai decides to break free and follow his dream to become an explorer, and he invites Elliot to go with him. When she refuses because she feels responsible to the people who work on the land her family owns, Kai can't forgive her. Four years later, Kai returns, now a successful explorer; meanwhile, Elliot's father's farm is slowly sinking into ruin. Though Elliot still harbors deep feelings for her former friend, he seems interested only in showing her how well he's done. But the world around them is changing, and the new questions that arise about things they've always accepted as fact just may change them as well.
Is it any good?
Elliot is a richly developed character, and readers will sympathize with her difficult decision: being loyal to her family's workers or following the love of her life for new adventures.
Though the repetition of some of the concepts can get tiresome, and the language is occasionally imprecise, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a well-paced story that will keep readers quickly turning pages as more of the past is revealed and Elliot's dilemma becomes increasingly difficult. In an abundant field of dystopian YA literature, For Darkness Shows the Stars stands out because its underlying concepts are fascinating and relevant, and its characters are real and relatable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the Luddites aren't allowed to use any form of technology. If you were a Luddite, what do you think would be the hardest technology to live without?
How do you think For Darkness Shows the Stars compares with Persuasion, if you've read that Jane Austen novel? How is it different? How are they alike?
If creativity were discouraged in your world as it is in Elliot's, what would you miss doing most?
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