Dark Parties by Sara Grant, published by Indigo on 5th January 2012
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.
Sara Grant's debut novel is a dystopian thriller which will take you on an incredible journey in a society ruled by fear of the government and protected from the outside by the Protectosphere. This was a thrilling read with some shocking twists and turns. As the story unravelled I was constantly surprised by the unexpected chain of events that played out before me.
The story centres on Neva who lives with her family in the Protectosphere, a dome which was built to protect the people living within it from those causing terror and harm. The government control nearly every aspect of their lives but Neva longs for escape and the elusive taste of freedom. She fights against the fact that her whole life is dictated to her, from what job she'll do, to the way she's encouraged to marry and procreate. Unlike many others, Neva does believe that there's something more out there and keeps a list of all those who have gone missing including her beloved Grandmother, who may just be on the other side of the dome.
I thought that the whole idea of a society like this was incredibly frightening. The concept that life may exist outside of the Protectosphere but it could just be a vast expanse of nothingness was also extremely unsettling. Neva tries to uncover what's happening to all the people who go missing but a lot of the time she has to rely on her faith alone because proof that there's another world out there is scant. There's a definite feeling of claustrophobia and of being trapped and this came across really well on the page. The theme of independence and the fight for freedom was beautifully captured in a world which is unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before.
There's plenty of romance in the book as well with Neva caught between two boys, steady and reliable boyfriend Ethan and dangerous and forbidden Braydon. He's forbidden because he happens to be her best friend Sanna's boyfriend but after an illicit kiss in the dark at a party, Neva finds that she can't stay away from him no matter how hard she tries. Although I'm a sucker for love triangles and cute boys, my favourite relationship was actually between Neva and Sanna. They're best friends but really they're more like sisters. They've grown-up together and they've helped each other through many ups and downs in their lives. Although Neva is drawn towards Braydon, at the same time she does try to stay away from him and put her friend first which I thought was admirable.
If you were a fan of 'Matched' by Ally Condie then you're sure to love 'Dark Parties' which is in the same vein. Sara Grant has a brilliant writing style which is engaging and draws the reader in. I loved the plot and the characters and I was rooting for Neva the whole way through. This is a very special debut by an exciting new author who's definitely one to watch. I can't wait for the follow-up to see what happens to Neva next.