Sara Grant dives straight into the arresting madness that is the Dark Parties future. The novel opens with Neva and Sanna beginning their insurrection by throwing a Dark Party, and Grant expertly taps into readers' other senses by immersing them in the utter blackness alongside Neva. After this startling opening, Dark Parties continues to unsettle with its timeliness: the language of patriotism, Homeland, and Terror weaves into the very foundation of this world.
It is impossible not to cheer for Neva as she begins her fight for freedom, a fight which grows in urgency as the horrifying truths of the Homeland are revealed. It is a relief to see a heroine who is leading the revolution rather than being prodded along by those around her. The reader's strong sympathy with Neva makes the emotional highs and lows of the novel even more gut-wrenching -- the intensity of several moments actually gave me goosebumps.
However, Neva's relationships could be more elaborated. This aspect seems too often neglected amid the world-building in dystopian novels. At times, it was hard to see the ties that bound Neva to those around her (especially her love interest). Yet, the relationship between Neva and her grandmother was one of the most nuanced aspects of the story. Their bond is brought to life and transcends the obstacles that lie between them -- no mean feat when her grandmother is one of The Missing.
The ultimate reality at the heart of this society is unfathomable, and its portrayal is unflinching, forcing the reader to feel the urgency and injustice to their very core. The final pages are maelstrom of shocking twists that will leave readers alternately gasping in disbelief and surging with hope. Thankfully, the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel to this gripping debut -- I'm not ready to leave Neva and her fight for life and liberty behind.
Disclosure: I borrowed an ARC of this novel from Lauren at 365 Days of Reading for the Cornucopia of Dystopia event.
This novel hits shelves August 3, 2011. Preorder Dark Parties by Sara Grant.
Part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.