Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Dark Parties is dystopian YA set in a world that may or may not be our Earth. I won’t hazard a guess because it’s sort of irrelevant either way.
The main character, Neva, is part of a small movement of new adults (16 is the age of adulthood) who have come to doubt the government’s ‘truths’ about the giant dome that covers their world. It’s called … wait for it … the Protectosphere.
But, despite the cheese of certain institutional names and organizations, and subtle nods to the film ‘Logan’s Run,’ the novel has some really endearing qualities—namely the covert longing that Neva feels for her best friend’s boyfriend, Brayden. We sympathize with her because she clearly doesn’t want to give into her feelings, but at the same time, we fight for there to be a reason for her to keep her friend and get the guy. I won’t ruin it for you by telling you the twist at the end or how it relates to the outcome of this dilemma.
Scattered throughout the narrative are not-too-subtle clues to what has become important to this civilization: breeding more people to populate it. As an example, the teens, in order to have an alibi for their whereabouts during an act of rebellion, go to a movie. In this movie, sex scenes from other films have been spliced together and added in order to qualify the flick as 16+ adult features. This unsettling truth carries the plot forward, more so perhaps than even the characters since the only character we come to learn anything important about, is Neva herself.
Another scene that sticks out in my mind is a flashback (sort of) of Neva and her father near the edge of the Protectosphere, and there she sees animal carcasses, where various creatures have run into the dome and been electrocuted. It’s foreshadowing at its best.
The plot can be condensed into one single question: Is there life beyond the dome?
Grant is a gifted storyteller, no doubt. Her prose is crisp and clean and easily understood. But, I was left wanting to know more. A lot more. Which isn’t altogether a bad thing at all. Assuming that there is another book. The ending in particular, was quite open-ended and left a lot to the reader to determine.
It’s really easy in YA to get too emotional and spend paragraph after paragraph waxing poetic about the woes of being an angtsy teenager. Thankfully, Grant doesn’t waste much of our time with this, and instead gives us glances of Neva’s past and insights into her beloved grandmother (who’d better be making an appearance in book two! I want to meet this woman).
Overall, it’s worth the read. Grant has shown, with this debut novel, that she’s got staying power. I’m looking forward to her next book.