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The Shadow Society

Affecting alternate-world fantasy promotes tolerance.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Set in an alternate version of Chicago, The Shadow Society presents facts from both a skewed and actual history of the city. T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" also plays a significant part in the plot.

Positive messages

The Shadow Society emphasizes the importance of tolerance and forgiveness. Although they have done awful things to each other, humans and Shades in the alternate Chicago must see beyond their differences if either society hopes to survive.

Positive role models

Miain character Darcy Jones is a brave and resourceful young woman who was abandoned as a child but has slowly built a network of trustworthy and loyal friends. When she's taken to an alternate Chicago against her will, she struggles to understand her newfound abilities and chart a course for herself that will not lead to a betrayal of the people she cares about.


Darcy's kidnapping from her foster home is the most physically intense scene inThe Shadow Society. It involves knives, fire, and assault. After that, terrorist attacks involving arson and poison gas are remembered and contemplated. In general, however, there's not a lot of violence in this novel.


Darcy's attracted to Con from the moment she catches him staring at her at the start of The Shadow Society. As the story progresses, she has opportunities to observe him without his shirt on. They indulge in a few hot kisses, but their physical intimacy does not progress much further.


Language in The Shadow Society is fairly mild. There are a few stray "screw you"s, but the characters mostly even avoid "damn" and "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

There are vague references to drinking at parties, but the characters in The Shadow Society don't seem to indulge in drinking, drugs, or smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Shadow Society is a cleverly conceived alternate-world fantasy. Language is very mild (only the rare "damn," "hell," or "screw you"), smoking/drinking/drugs are virtually nonexistent, and the level of sexual content never rises above passionate kissing and staring at young men without their shirts on. There's one intense kidnapping scene, plus depictions of two acts of terror involving fire and poison gas. In general, however, the level of violence in the book is not high.

What's the story?

Abandoned outside a Chicago fire station at the age of 5, Darcy Jones doesn't remember much about her childhood. Now a high school student in foster care, she has a fairly stable life with a good-natured guardian and a handful of loyal friends. But when she's kidnapped by Conn McCrae, a member of the Interdimensional Bureau of Investigation, she discovers an alternate Chicago inhabited by Shades, a race of mysterious beings with powers that border on the magical. While searching for a way home, she attains new abilities and memories that threaten everything she cares about.

Is it any good?


THE SHADOW SOCIETY is a cleverly constructed alternate-world fantasy set in two versions of Chicago. Darcy Jones is an intriguing protagonist -- clearly traumatized by her abandonment but engaged in building a better life for herself with grit and good humor. Her interactions with her friends at school especially ring true. Unfortunately, Darcy's fascination with Conn McCrae, the mysterious boy who essentially ends up kidnapping her, feels forced. Readers may wonder why he's worth so much attention after Darcy discovers a whole other universe and a new set of powers for herself.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how alternate worlds are often a component in science-fiction and fantasy tales. What do you like about those kinds of stories?

  • What do you think about The Shadow Society's message about tolerance? Does the conflict between cultures in the book remaind you of any cultural conflicts in our world?

  • How is poetry suited to shedding light on the human condition?

Book details

Author:Marie Rutkoski
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Arts and dance, Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:October 16, 2012
Number of pages:416
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Shadow Society was written by

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Parent Written bymacmomdaly July 17, 2013

Nothing New but a good summer read

My son had to read this, along with the rest of his 8th grade classmates for Summer break. It's a quick read. It is the same genre as Hunger Games, Matched and Divergent. His only complaint was the "lovey dovey" aspect (same as the other books). Nothing new for discussion but may be a good choice if you or your child are looking for a fun summer read, especially if you are familiar with Chicago.
Teen, 14 years old Written byforever_fireproof October 3, 2014

Great Book!

The Shadow Society is an amazing book! Not only is it a great story, but there are also multiple positive messages. You should know that there is romance in the book, and the two characters who are in love kiss and for a very short scene are in bed together, but they do not have any sexual interaction whatsoever. What I love about the romance of this novel though is the fact that I felt while reading it, that Darcy and Con have more of a healthy emotional and personal relationship rather than a physical one that goes past what two teenagers should be doing, which is what you see too much currently. You just can't find many books that display such positive relationships like the one in this book. There is also violence in this book, but even the most intense scene didn't seem that bad. Overall, I think you should be at least 11 or 12 years old to read this book just because of what you have learned and experienced at that age. It really is a great and well written book story! God bless! :) :*
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models