(#72) Book Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Neva has lived within the electrified boundaries of the Protectosphere for her entire life.  The isolation of her world has put a strain on the civilization: resource shortage, inbreeding, and government censorship are all part of daily life.  Neva and her best friend Sanna believe that the government is lying when they claim that there is no life outside of the bubble, and they hold a dark party to try to recruit members into their resistance.  As Neva begins to discover the truth about her world, she realizes she might have gotten more information than she bargained for, and the choices she makes will effect those she loves.

Sara Grant’s Dark Parties is a dystopian novel for people who haven’t read a lot of dystopian fiction.  It’s not a bad debut novel by any means, but it’s not particularly inventive, either.  Fans of dystopian stories are going to see too many similarities to other novels in the genre, and because Grant’s story doesn’t have a whole lot of new ideas to offer, this will be disappointing.  However, Grant is a good writer, and she’s written a fast-paced, mostly enjoyable novel about a girl’s awakening to the injustices of the world.

Neva is a strong female protagonist, and her devotion to her family and friends is believable.  While Neva herself is a well-drawn character, most of the characters who surround her are not.  Because much of the novel is focused on pacing, little attention is given to building character development or the world around them.  A particularly weak point is the supposed attraction between Neva and Braydon, which felt rushed, superficial, and more like a plot point than an actual romance.

There are some good things happening in Grant’s novel.  The commentary on history and how the people in charge can shape and change it is particularly striking, as is the concept of a dwindling population trapped in their own xenophobia.  The cliff-hanger ending leaves the story open for a sequel, but I can’t help but hope that Grant leaves Neva’s story where it is and allows the reader to imagine what could happen next.

Dark Parties hits shelves on August 3, 2011.

Dark Parties by Sara Grant.  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: 2011. Electronic copy accepted for review from publisher.

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