For Darkness Shows the Stars



Riveting dystopian take on Jane Austen's Persuasion.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Although no easy answers are given in For Darkness Shows the Stars, the dystopic setting caused by over-experimentation with genetic modification may lead readers to think about how life without technology would change the world and to ponder the moral issues of scientific and medical progress.

Positive messages

The need to think about the repercussions of your actions motivates the Luddites' rejection of technology and creativity. This is understandable, given that humans' experiments have brought their world to the brink of destruction. But Elliot and Kai both find ways to test these limitations, and their bravery yields positive results.

Positive role models

Unlike her cruel father and shallow sister, Elliot takes her responsibility to the North farm seriously, working tirelessly to improve both the crops and the lives of the people who work for the North family. Her inner conflict over whether to uphold the Luddite anti-technology protocol as she has always been taught or to allow plant grafting that might allow her workers to be better fed and the farm to be more successful is believable and will encourage readers to come up with their own answers.


Elliot's father isn't kind to his staff of Reduced laborers, but he's not abusive to them, either. But it's rumored that the Reduced, who are childlike slaves, are often brutally treated in the cities, though there's no graphic detail. Rape of the Reduced is also alluded to but not discussed in graphic detail. Luddites like Elliot and her family are allowed to own guns, although no one else is, and at one point Elliot's father threatens one of Elliot's friends with a pistol.


Prostitution of the Reduced is alluded to but not discussed in graphic detail. Elliot and her friends are horrified by the idea, but there are clearly some members of Luddite society who find it acceptable.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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.

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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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Diana Peterfreund
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Balzer + Bray
Publication date:June 12, 2012
Number of pages:407
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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