“There can be second chances.
But maybe it's also true that things can never be the same,
and that you have to decide
whether the second chance lives up to the first.”
--Marie Rutkowski, The Shadow Society
Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 416 pages
Publication Date: October 16th, 2012
Find on Goodreads
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkowski was the most pleasant binge read for a quiet Sunday morning. I started this book around 8 am and with a few bathroom breaks and a 25 minute intermission that I forced on myself for the mere necessity of sustenance (who needs to eat right?) I finished around 2 pm. This book was good...like really, really good. The story begins with possibly one of the best opening lines ever and that is this:
'Knowing what I know now, I'd say my foster mother
had her reasons for throwing a kitchen knife at me.'
Um...say what?! Now if that didn't spark your interest I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Marie Rutkoski a few weeks ago and would you believe that opening line is based off of a true story that happened to one of her friends...can't make up real life people I'm serious. That is just too awesome and outrageous not to believe. With that fun tidbit aside this book lives up to and goes beyond expectations from the opening lines.
The Shadow Society takes place in Chicago where we meet Darcy Jones and her 3 eclectic friends on the first day of school. This will be Darcy's second year in a row at the same school, since she was abandoned at a Chicago Fire Station at the age of 5 she has been shuttled to different foster and group homes her whole life. Before school begins that day though she gets quite an unsettling look from a stranger that does not go unnoticed by her friends. Day goes on and we learn this newcomer is Conn because he is in Darcy's English class. She doesn't really know what to think of this good-looking young man except she has the unexplained urge to feel a little wary around him so her guard is up. The end up partnering up for a school project and as these things happen both of their perceptions of the other were off track. They become friends and meanwhile weird things have started to happen to Darcy that she can't figure out. Without giving away the plot line which I won't because you should go read it, Conn betrays Darcy and from there Darcy finds out she is a Shade. A being that can become corporeal at will, simplified she can vanish into thin air but still be aware and there in the moment. Best way I can explain it, for real go read. So along with this knowledge of becoming a Shade Darcy discovers her kind still exist in another dimension where the Great Chicago Fire did not happen and there is major unrest between the humans and the Shades.
This book was so fun to read! Like I said, I could not put it down. The action and pacing was perfect, you were never stalled in one scene for too long (even though there were a few I wish we had more of *wink wink*), the plot kept twisting, it was great. I've never read about alternative dimensions so this whole concept was new and really interesting to me. I kept turning my brain in circles contemplating about the differences between the Chicagos. And Rutkoski was so creative in adding in little things to alternate Chicago that didn't exist here like artists and authors and people, it was just really, really different and really, really cool to think about.
Rutkoski also did a brilliant job of integrating a very real problem of today's world into a young adult world that makes it so easy to understand. There was clearly some very real racism, terrorism, and human rights issues that were going on in this book and Rutkoski just had a way of relating it in a way that any teenager reading could clearly understand and interpret as wrong. I love this. Young people are not stupid and author Caragh O'Brien does similar things with her writing that I just find so amazing. They both take complex and real problems of today's society and mold it into situations that are more enjoyable to read yet still present the same conceptual theme. It is writing like this that makes me yearn for more. The injustice of our treatment of people and rising above the oppression intertwined with a very unique world to do it in are my bread and butter of reading. I can't get enough. Anybody can take books like this and be able to argue and interpret them on so many levels. This might not be everybody's idea of fun but it certainly is one of mine.
The Shadow Society also examined the idea of second chances and trust. You never really know or understand what anybody's true intention is. So it does keep you interested and guessing but you never really know what to believe or who to trust which is identical to real life. You never truly know what other people are thinking or what their motives are but you do have to decide on one thing...to trust or not to trust. Darcy had a hard time with this as anybody should. Believing in people is hard especially when they have previously given you a reason not to. I think Darcy's treatment of Conn and her decisions are perfect. They are careful and sensible but she believes in second chances which is admirable and honest.
The characters were extremely well developed and deep. Conn is never as he seems initially. He has depth and character and integrity. He was a really interesting character to read about and I'm afraid anything more will give things away...I'm terrible I know. And Darcy was, for lack of better words, just awesome. This girl was gritty. Foster home after foster home and this girl was still living every day and enjoying what she can. She was never down trodden or depressed, she was grateful for any and every good thing that came her way. Her friends were super cool kids who adored her as she did them. She was strong. She kept a straight head on her shoulders in situations and many would have crumbled in. I loved reading her story and her journey.
I LOVED how it all came together in the end! There wasn't a lot of drawn out and unnecessary drama, it was concise and wrapped up perfectly. I wanted more! Ah, we can't all get what we want. And it was EXTREMELY refreshing to read a stand-alone novel. Don't get me wrong, I love my series but there is something very satisfying about reading a single story all completed and wrapped up in end. It's like a big sigh and success. I'm glad I don't have to wait to see how Darcy's story plays out...it ended perfectly.
The concept of this novel was completely unique and fresh and oh so interesting to read. Pacing was great, characters were complex and interesting and if you're looking for a quick, fast-paced read that keeps you guessing with a little sci-fi mixed in this book is something you should definitely check it out!