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Dark Parties was certainly an intriguing read. There were times when I really liked the story but... there were also times when I really didn't. Although one thing I did enjoy was that in no way was this book predictable. The plot constantly twisted and changed directions so that as a reader, it was impossible to predict what would happen next.
Written from the point of view of sixteen year old Neva, a girl who has lived her entire life within the rigid order of the Protectosphere (a dome like structure that encompasses the country to keep people safe from disease and destruction), the story is set in a dystopian world where the government rules & controls the people through a suppressing system of fear and deceit. Yet her whole life, Neva has kept a written record of all the people around her who after run-ins with the government, seem to have mysteriously disappeared, including her beloved grandmother.
Sick and tired of the government laws and their constant propaganda to have the younger generations marry and procreate, Neva along with her best friend Sanna decide that enough is enough. Together they plot a way to rebel against the government's tyrannical rule but when they stumble upon a truth that the government are prepared to kill to keep hidden, Neva finds herself fighting for more than just freedom, but her life as well...
Ultimately I think this book got off to a really good start. Quite literally opening with a dark party, I thought it began on an interesting premise and was written in a way that had me highly anticipating the events to come. However I have to admit, about halfway through the book I started to lose interest as nothing happened the way I wanted it to and I got a little... bored.
However that's not to say that the story wasn't interesting because there was honestly a lot about it that I really liked. I just expected the book to me more about Neva's rebellion than it actually was. Also again, with the romance not turning out as I expected and the ending left fairly open - I was left feeling quite disappointed.
Basically this book just wasn't my thing. Yet the drama, action and intrigue of story were enough to have me read all the way through to the end, and the characters themselves were interesting.
Neva was a reserved and hesitant protagonist but I enjoyed watching her confidence grow as she became more actively assertive in her choice to rebel. Her friendship with Sanna was moving and their loyalty to each other was very touching - despite Neva's forbidden romance with Sanna's boyfriend Braydon - who was typically handsome, mysterious and naturally a bit of a bad boy. Also I couldn't but feel sorry for Neva's boyfriend Ethan who I felt kind of got the short straw in this story.
Also I've read a quite a few dystopian books now and while some of the concepts were new, I felt that much of it had already been done before. Therefore I think readers who are new to the dystopian genre will probably enjoy this book more because Dark Parties was good. It was dramatic and full of plot twists but I it did leave quite a few questions unanswered. However I would still be interested to read other books by Sara Grant as I did like her writing style and as I said, I thought the book got off to a fantastic beginning. Sadly on this occasion though I just didn't gel with story so my rating is only 2 ½ stars!
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...
Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.
Right from the beginning I was drawn into the story and the characters lives, but initially it was the idea of a protectosphere that intrigued me. I have read and really enjoyed Stephen King's Under the Dome and I wondered if this would be along those lines, but apart from it being an impassable outer shell there really wasn't much in common.
To begin with I found Neva quite a hard character to like, as some of her actions are a little self absorbed and even mean to the people she cared most about. However, I did warm to her. In Dark Parties there was of course the typical YA love triangle involved, but I think the best chemistry was between Neva and her lifelong best friend Sanna. I don't want to reveal too much of the plot but when it counted Neva was willing to risk almost everything to save her friend and keep their friendship alive.
Although I enjoyed the story there wasn't really all that much that made Dark Parties stand out from the growing abundance of dystopian YA novels out there. The plot was very predictable and although there were some interesting quirks to the book, it did in a lot of ways feel like a story that I had already read. But, having said that the writing was good and it was easy to sit back and enjoy the story unfold. I did really like some of the smaller details of the book and I loved that throughout the generations all the people became to look more and more similar, so much so that people chose to design themselves identity marks - Sanna carved an S onto her cheek, while Neva tattooed a small snowflake beside her hip.
The ending of the story was good and did wrap almost everything up nicely and this did work well as a standalone but I can also imagine that it could be the beginning to a new series, I would certainly happily revisit with some of the characters. There was quite a lot about the history of the world and about the society that you really don't get to know, I would be interested in reading more.
I can imagine that this book is going to produce a mixed bag of opinions, as I said I enjoyed the story but it didn't feel like something new, but just a well told re-take on what is fast becoming a typical dystopian theme. Still recommended.
Genre - YA, dystopian
Published by Indigo (Oct 2011)
Paperback -256 pages (£6.99)
Source - I received a copy of 'Dark Parties' by Sara Grant in exchange for an honest review.