Rummanah Aasi
  Immigration has been a hot topic in political circles, especially with the rising threat of terrorism. Sara Grant's debut, dystopian novel, Dark Parties, explores the idea of what would happens to a society if immigration is forbidden. I received an advanced reader's copy from the publisher and Netgalley to provide you an honest review of the book for the Cornucopia of Dystopia blog tour. Dark Parties is slated to release on August 3, 2011.

Description: Neva lives within the Protectosphere, a giant electric shield that protects her small nation from the outside. As the name of the shield suggests, the government persuades its citizens that living inside the Protestophere is safe and patriotic. The world outside is dangerous and uninhabitable due to an event called The Terror that altered the country forever. Neva and her best friend, Sanna, know that their government isn't telling everyone the truth. There is no new technology under the Protectosphere, therefore, everything must be recycled and reused until it falls apart. The population is dwindling and teens (at the age of 16 are categorized as adults) are encouraged to marry and have children right away. After Neva and Sanna host what they call a "dark party" in order to begin what they think will be a small, underground rebellion, their lives are forever changed when they discover what secrets the government has been keeping.

Review: Dark Parties has a really interesting premise, but it doesn't live up to its potential and gets easily lost in the crowd of other books in the fast growing dystopian genre. There are parts of Dark Parties that I enjoyed. I found the central idea of the book, a dwindling population trapped inside a supposedly protective bubble with no real knowledge of their history, to be intriguing. I also enjoyed Neva's memories of her grandmother, who inspires and drives Neva to explore and to hope there is something better in the "outside" world. As a character, I thought Neva was likable though flawed. I appreciated how she refused to be passive and accept her world, but continued to fight for a better future for herself.
   My main problem of the book is how it is structured. As the book opens, we are placed in a pitch black room where the dark party takes place and the talks of rebellion begin. While the characters see the light at the end of the first chapter, I, unfortunately, couldn't shake that feeling of still being completely lost and disoriented when I read the book. I hoped that things would be explained as I continued reading, but it didn't. I hated the feeling that the characters of the book knew more than I did and talked in code. At times, I had to reread sections to try to figure out what was happening, which often took me out of the story completely.
  The plot moves at a feverish pace, leaving very little time to truly get to know any of the characters, which left me feeling disconnected. I only knew the characters by their relationship (i.e. mother, father, friend, boyfriend, etc) with Neva, who is our narrator. We are constantly told that Neva has a strong relationship with her best friend, Sanna, but it's never shown. Similarly, I was at a lost why Neva was drawn to Braydon, besides him being a good kisser. I did not feel as much sympathy for some of the characters nor did I feel an emotional impact with the love triangle and when various betrayals effected our main cast of characters. 
  In addition to the lack of characterization in the book, the world building is sparse. Details explaining what happened to cause the Terror and what lead to the Protectosphere are never mentioned. Reproduction issues are explained a little better, but only clear up things when we already know from the story's context clues, thus being a bit redundant. The ending is semi-abrupt, but also plants a few seeds for a possible sequel.
 Grant has a knack for writing fast paced, action packed stories, but I wish she slowed down just a little so we can catch up and get to know her world and her characters a little better. I would recommend this book to those readers who enjoy plot driven books that contain mystery, suspense, and a little romance.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images in the book as well as a small, non-graphic sex scene. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien or Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
2 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I just love how thorough your reviews are Rummanah, I get such a good sense of the book from reading them. I don't like to be confused and disoriented, and like you, definitely don't enjoy when the characters seem to have so much more information than I do. I don't mind when I have to learn things about the world along with the main character, but I get frustrated when I seem to be the only one out of the loop! Thanks for your thoughts on this one:)

  2. Thanks, Jenny. I try my best to write a balanced review if I had a hard time reading the book. Hopefully, some of these issues are taken into consideration when the final book comes out in August.

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