Thursday, June 20, 2013

What we're reading: Paranormal powers, parallel universes

The Shadow Society
by Marie Rutkoski
408 pages
Paranormal / urban fantasy
Stand-alone (although more books could follow?)
Grades 8 and up
Reviewed by Melissa

I saw this book on the New Books shelf and vaguely recognized the name of the author as someone whose book The Cabinet of Wonders had been recommended to me by another librarian. That series (The Kronos Chronicles) was perhaps written for a slightly younger audience, maybe 4th grade and up? so I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet (too busy with YA!). But the familiarity of the author's name decided me on reading this new book last weekend, and I'm glad I picked it up.

I hesitate to tell too much of the story, because it was such a pleasure to go into it with no knowledge. The jacket copy doesn't give away too much, but since the catalogue has a more revelatory description, I guess I'll go ahead (cautiously) with some of it:

Darcy Jones is an orphan. She was discovered outside a Chicago fire station at the age of five, and has been "in the system" since, fostered out to various homes her whole life. Her latest foster parent, Marsha, seems to be happy to keep her (unlike the previous places, where she had caused trouble, usually by accident, and been sent back to DCFS, which stands for Department of Child and Family Services, to be reassigned), and she has actually put down some roots, since she is starting her second year at the same high school. She has some great friends--Lily, Jims and Raphael--and overall her life is good. The only thing that haunts her is that she remembers nothing before that moment she was discovered--she doesn't know her real name, where she came from, who her parents were, and why she was lost or abandoned, and this creates a hollow place she'd love to fill.

Enter Conn. Conn is the new boy at school, and after initially giving her the snake-eye stare, he starts trying to get to know her. They are ultimately paired off to do a class project together, and...I know what you're thinking right now! You're thinking [Groan], another Twilight thing where he hates her / he loves her / she distrusts him / she loves him / she turns into a soppy, sappy mess because they can't be together. Nope! I thought so too, and I almost put down the book, but... Just as fireworks start to ensue between them, he whips out a pair of handcuffs and arrests her! and the plot takes a decided turn for different!

I don't want to tell too much more, because it's so fun to discover it for yourself, but paranormal powers (Darcy's), secret government bureaucracies (Conn's) and alternate universes (yep) are involved. I labeled it as urban fantasy instead of sci fi because it's really more about taking an actual place (Chicago) and thinking "what if things were different in this way and this way and this" so that it involves world-building but not from a completely made-up place. Kind of like Cassandra Clare's New York in City of Bones, but in this one it's not beneath the surface, it's in a different space.

I really liked Darcy--she's independent, somewhat fierce, and brave despite being frightened down to her core of a whole bunch of things she doesn't even understand. I liked the romance, I liked the setting, the friends are great, the plot moves in unexpected directions. I'd give this one 4.5 stars! And I loved the cover--it was perfect.

This was written as a stand-alone (I think), but Rutkoski could certainly write more about these characters and this setting--it's a rich world she has created, and I hope she explores it further for us.

Marie says Adele's song "Hometown Glory" is the anthem for this book--have a listen!

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