Friday, November 2, 2012

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski - Review

The Shadow Society
by Marie Rutkoski
October 2012
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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 . . .

Add on Goodreads. 

Guest Review by Sarah:
I chose this book for two reasons:
1) The opening line of the Prologue: "Knowing what I know now, I'd say my foster mother had her reasons for throwing a kitchen knife at me."

I mean, come on! How could I not want to know what that was all about?


2) The girl's boots on the cover. I have serious boot envy.

When I started "The Shadow Society," I was worried it was going to be a rehash quite a few Young Adult novels I've read over the past few years:

We have a girl, Darcy Jones, who feels like she doesn't really belong anywhere.

Cue the arrival of a mysterious new guy at school, Connor McCrea, who apparently either likes or loathes our heroine. It's surprising how many books for teens have this, "I am irresistibly drawn to this guy who is either really into me too, or quite possibly wants to kill me" dynamic going on.

They're paired together for a class project.

Wait, haven't I read this book before? I didn't have high hopes.

And then Rutkoski hit me with the poetry, specifically T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Conn and Darcy work together on an English assignment based on this poem.

Y'all, I have a deep and abiding love for Prufrock. There was no way I was going to give up on the book after that sad little man showed up. Plus, the writing style was lyrical without being flowery and I was enjoying it.

I'm really glad I kept reading, because after a slow start, the book started to grow on me. The characters started to grow on me. Darcy is a pretty angsty girl, and hard to warm up to at first. But she is also fiercely loyal to her friends, passionate about her art, and determined to find out about her past and figure out exactly who she is.

Conn turns out to be a more complicated character than we first believe, too. As Darcy's best friend Lily puts it, "You two sound like a pair of misfit toys who are going to end up breaking each other."

The secondary characters had some of the best lines, especially Jims, who serves up the comic relief. And every now and then, there would be a funny sentence that made me smile. Like this one by Darcy's friend Raphael, talking about Conn: "And, speaking of putting on acts, how's Mr. I Wear A Cologne and It's Called Mysterious?"

There are some things that did nag at me a bit. The way the Great Chicago Fire caused the dimensional rift between our world and the reality in which Conn and the Shades live is never really explained.

Another thing that didn't exactly ring true for me was the outcome of the big climatic scene. It was a little Breaking Dawn-ish, since the climax was pretty anticlimactic. However, I do appreciate Rutkoski giving us characters who solved problems with words and not violence.

And since I only read books without strong language and sexual content, I also liked that this was a "clean" read.

If you go into the book ready to push past the slow start and not expecting lots of wham-bang action Shade vs. human action (there's not any), I think you'll enjoy this book. It's a well-written novel with a vividly described setting and characters discovering who they are, where they came from, what they want, and what matters most in their lives.

There was a lot to enjoy, and despite my initial misgivings, I found myself thinking about the book for days after I finished it. For me, that's always the sign of a worthwhile read.

About the author:
Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Societyabout a girl who discovers that she’s not human and that her kind are terrorists in an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened. The Shadow Society will be published October 30, 2012. Marie has also written the children’s fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of WondersThe Celestial Globeand The Jewel of the KalderashThe Cabinet of Wonders, her debut novel, was named an Indie Next Kids’ List Great Read and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, among other honors. 

Rutkoski grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She attended the University of Iowa. After graduating, she lived in Moscow and Prague. Upon receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University, she held dual appointments as a lecturer there in both English and American Literature and Language, and History and Literature. Rutkoski is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and creative writing. She usually lives in New York City with her husband and two sons, but she and her family are now living in Paris for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Find out more at

About the guest reviewer, Sarah:
Sarah reviews YA novels at the cleverly titled Sarah's YA Blog. She freely admits she doesn't quite fit the profile of a "young" reader, and the "adult" part is also questionable. :) She lives in Arkansas and chases/chauffers/wrangles her kids, and is always looking for the next great book to obsess over. 

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