by Diana Peterfreund, fantasy (2013, reissue)
Balzer+Bray, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-06-200615-8
For Darkness Shows The Stars has a nice title, a nice cover, and some buzz about how this is a dystopian recreation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Never mind that I'm one of those readers who don't think that Jane Austen is the start and end of all that is good about romantic literature, I take one look at the cover and I'm reeled in, just like that. Hey, I'm easy sometimes.
Set in a time when civilization is still recovering from the usual "science begets war, war begets dead to almost everybody, and dead to almost everybody begets bandwagon trend in young adult stories" drama that strikes the future, we have people in two islands, convinced that everyone else is dead. The Luddites, comprising the genteel upper class people, ban all new inventions and gizmos. They instead choose to settle down like Southern plantation owners. The simple folks, called the Reduced, ended up the way they were because of the OH NO MAD SCIENCE IS BAD drama. They are the donkeys that do all the hard work. Eventually, some Reduced produce children that are smart, amazing, gorgeous, talented, and all-around awesome, and they are called
X-Men Post-Reductionists or Posts for short.
So, into this world we have our heroine Elliot North. She's a Luddite, although like every virtuous heroine in existence, she loves nothing more than to cook, clean, sweep, farm, and cross-pollinate wheat. Remember, in this story, the Luddites are bad and the Posts can't do anything wrong. She likes a Post, Kai, but when he asks her to run away with him, Elliot decides that she'd rather stay behind - her father and her sister are selfish types, so she's the only one that can treat the workers nicely, after all - so Kai goes off in a huff.
Today, Elliot is broke and she's still everybody's drab doormat. Then Kai shows up, as the awesomely handsome Captain Malakai Wentworth, in an entourage of Posts that exist to act smug and sneer at Kai. Kai is still bruised over Elliot's rejection, so it's understandable that he treats her like crap until he discovers that she actually wants to be everything he wants her to be. So it's love, the end.
Yes, this is another young adult story where the heroine pays for not doing what the boy is pressuring her into, by being unhappy and pining after the guy, while the guy sweeps in and acts like she's beneath his notice. She desperately clings on to his every word and hopes that he'd look at her. How pathetic, really.
This story is told entirely through Elliot's point of view, and yikes, she's one of the flattest and most boring heroines ever. If we take a piece of paper and run a steamroller over it a hundred times, it'd still be hard to tell the difference between Elliot and that piece of paper. The rare times she does stand up for herself, it's to tell people that they don't know her so they can shut up and let her mope in peace. Not exactly assertive, is she?
Elliot has no realistic personality. She's the epitome of the very nice doormat. She lives only to care for the workers, although she has no power to do this and she doesn't stand up against her father or her sister. She has no personal ambitions aside from a passion for eugenics that serves only as her redeeming point in Kai's eyes. Every crusade she shoulders becomes an excuse for her to sigh and mope about how unhappy she is, yet she passively goes along and plays the martyr anyway. It's hard for me to care for such a drab and lifeless heroine.
Pair her with Kai, an asshole, and this is an agonizingly slow-paced Chinese water torture equivalent of a read. My biggest issue with the asshole and his doormat is that the overwhelming message here is that Elliot is wrong not to run away with Kai back then, because she has betrayed his love, so she must now pay, pay, pay. Oh, give me a break, they were both kids then. And given how they behave this time around, they are still kids. Stupid kids.
Add in the constant preachiness related to the awesomeness of the Post - the richest, most attractive, most amazing, most free, most woooo-ooo-ooo-hoo! - and I can only mutter, "I need a kiki." Some nuances could have made a difference - some acknowledgments that Kai is not always right and Elliot is not always wrong; some middle ground here instead of forcing me to sit through the absolutely flat personalities of Doormat, Smug, and Asshole with nothing in-between.
Maybe that's why this is a young adult story: only that target audience could muster the patience for the antics of these two overgrown twits. Nice cover, nice title... shame about the infantile "love" story.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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