The Shadow Society, by Marie Rutkoski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, YA, Oct., 2012) is the most gripping book I've read in 2013. The pages turned quickly--my 40 minute bus ride home yesterday took me to page 167, and I almost missed my stop, and my poor children were sent to bed late (my husband being out for the evening) as I finished the last 200 or so pages....(and poor youngest child thought it was Friday, and no one reminded him to do his homework...)
The story, summarized briefly up to the point where the spoilers would be too spoilery:
Darcy was found on the streets of Chicago when she was five years old, with no memory of how she got there or who she is. After being shunted from one foster home to another, she's now a junior, with a foster mother who is keeping her for a second year (a first). But her expectations of a happy year in the company of her three best friends are shattered when an enigmatic, and beautifully handsome, new boy, Conn, arrives....
(ok--I would have liked it better if Conn hadn't been so beautiful. I have never, myself, met anyone with chiseled lips. And it's rather cliched that of course Darcy is going to be strangely attracted to him, and he's going to be all strange to her, in a "what does this beautiful boy want from me way" and I think this part of the book could have been just a tad more subtle. But, on the other hand, the way Darcy's small cabal of friends react is rather nice. Darcy's friends are great. As is the fact that Darcy and Conn spend much time discussing The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I liked this).
Back to the story.
So there are hints that Conn is odd, it's quite clear that Darcy is different (I'll go so far as to say Special), and even clearer that something is going to happen.
It does. It involves an alternate Chicago, where the Great Fire never happened, and where humans are locked in a war against beings known as Shades, who can disincorporate themselves. It's a war of terrorist attacks, torture of captives, and bitter memories....and Darcy finds herself right in the middle of it.
Things get very interesting indeed. Loyalty, memory, and guilt. Past death and present danger. Questions about whether peace is possible after so much bloody history. And on the lighter side, a new Jane Austin book, discovered after her death in the alternate universe, and a trip to the alternate Chicago's art museum...
And in the meantime, Conn and Darcy, two people almost broken by past atrocity, must negotiate their relationship under terrible pressure.........(there's me reading reading reading all big-eyed and totally engrossed)......
So yes, I liked it very much!
(Here's a quibble--young people today are so selfish. If my sons ever found themselves spending a couple of weeks in an alternate Chicago, knowing that it was quite easy to come and go between the two worlds, but Never Bothering to let me know they were all right, I'd be really cross.)