Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

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Book: Dark Parties
Author: Sara Grant
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 3, 2011
Source: ARC received from Book It Forward ARC Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) 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.

First impressions: If you have any question about the title, it gets answered in the very first scene. Neva is literally stumbling around in a “dark party” where kids make out in homemade sensory deprivation chambers. It’s the starting ground for her mini rebellion with her best friend, Sanna, and sets up a dark world indeed.

Lasting impressions: A solid entry into YA dystopian. I found the world believable and Neva appropriately rebellious and ballsy.

Conflicting impressions: I didn’t feel the fear as much as I could have. The fact that Neva’s high-ranking father can whisk her away from the big bad government meant I wasn’t ever truly nervous that anything awful could happen to her.

Overall impressions: Man I love dystopians, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Neva lives in a world where people, and increasingly, young girls, are disappearing. In the Protectosphere, they are taught that the world outside has deteriorated to nothing. Their society has remained enclosed in this small area for so long that people are starting to look the same, and disease is ravaging the life expectancy rates.

Neva is the daughter of the Minister of Ancient History, and has some privileges as a result. When she rebels against the government and the Protectosphere, she gets questioned but ultimately released to dad’s custody. Not so for her boyfriend Ethan, who gets strapped with a subdermal tracking device and receives the scare of his life. Along for the ride is Neva’s best friend, Sanna, and Sanna’s new boyfriend Braydon.

At the dark party in the opening scene, Braydon kisses Neva, unbeknownst to Sanna. This starts a cycle of confusing feelings and the struggle to not want what she so obviously wants so bad. Braydon likewise shows an interest in Neva, but won’t back off Sanna. Stuck on the sidelines is Ethan, who wants to marry Neva and start a family.

Neva knows something is not right in the Protectosphere, and suspicions planted by her now missing grandmother are becoming entrenched in her mind. She uses a position at her dad’s division to try and find out what is happening to the young girls that keep getting wiped from society without a trace. She dutifully records their names in a secret journal, desperate to not forget them.

I was totally sucked in to this story. Neva is bright, impulsive, and loyal to her friends if not her government. Above all, she wants to do the right thing and find justice for the missing, even if that means breaking the rules. When her nearest and dearest succumb to the worst of circumstances, she does all she can to right her wrongs. She is stuck between two boys and her best friend, and no matter which way she decides, she’s hurting someone.

The action moves briskly, and though the ending was a bit abrupt and ultimately predictable, there were some nice twists and turns along the way. I loved the idea of the Protectosphere – a place the authorities tried to shelter its citizens from the toxic world, but ended up creating even more toxicity within its walls. Though the world didn’t come off as scary as I think was intended, there was plenty of tension within the scenes to keep me flipping pages as fast as I could.

Very highly recommended to dystopian fans, or anyone who appreciates their rebellious side.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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