By Ekta R. Garg
May 31, 2017
Release date: June 6, 2017
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A girl tries to impress members of the “in crowd” by inviting them to a party. When a horrific accident occurs, the girl and her family will have to face intense scrutiny from the community and other students at school as they navigate the moral and legal issues surrounding the event. Author Robyn Harding tells with authority a story about today’s teens in a book that lacks some of that authority in the actual writing in The Party.
Hannah Sanders finds herself in an enviable position at San Francisco’s Hillcrest Academy. Ever since Noah, one of the hottest guys in school, turned his attention on her, Hannah’s social quotient has risen dramatically. She’s on the cusp of the “in crowd,” led by her elementary school BFF, Ronni Monroe, and the other “it” girl, Lauren Ross. Now Hannah just needs to prove to Ronni and Lauren how cool she can be, and she’ll be in the group for sure.
The perfect opportunity comes in the form of her sixteenth birthday. Hannah tells her parents she wants a low-key sleepover instead of a huge bash and lists Ronni and Lauren as her top two guests, with friends Marta and Caitlin rounding out the list. Marta and Caitlin aren’t a part of the clique, but Hannah needs them to maintain appearances so her parents won’t suspect what she really has planned. Kim, Hannah’s ever vigilant mother, couldn’t be happier with Hannah’s choice of party and guests, and father Jeff also voices his approval. After all, what could possibly go wrong when five girls get together for movies, pizza, and cake?
Plenty. With drugs and alcohol thrown into the mix, things get out of hand. One of the girls suffers a horrible accident and is rushed to the hospital. The others go home, and Hannah can’t believe her bad luck. How could something so awful happen at her party? How will she survive high school now?
The situation becomes much more grave for Kim and Jeff. Other parents begin shunning Kim at various school functions. Jeff starts to feel the pressure of supporting his family through the financial strain that could come with the fallout from the party. Their marriage wasn’t in the best place even before Hannah’s party; with a possible lawsuit and shades of infidelity starting to bleed into their relationship, their marriage becomes even more fragile. The entire family will need to find a way to survive the consequences of the accident as well as the possibility that the entire community will find out their most personal issues.
Author Robyn Harding nails the language and mannerisms of a cross section of today’s youth. Parents of teens will want to read this book so they can better prepare themselves for the ever-increasing possibilities of just how hard and how far some young people will go to climb the high school social ladder. Harding doesn’t hold back. She tells the story from various points of view, including Hannah’s, and she doesn’t hesitate to allow Hannah to be her worst when the story demands it.
Less convincing are some of the characterizations of the other point of view characters. Kim insists to everyone she meets that the police cleared her and Jeff of any wrongdoing at the party. Jeff spends a lot of time grinding his teeth about the hold Kim has over him due to a past indiscretion. Ronni’s mother, Lisa, can’t seem to let go of her own past issues long enough to face the reality of the present. In actuality, Hannah is the most grounded of all, despite being the youngest of those narrating the story.
It’s only fitting, then, that Hannah has the last say in the book, and those readers who stick with the story long enough will find her final words haunting and sad all at the same time. Harding shows readers that even a major break in the cycle doesn’t necessarily end it. Only someone with a magnanimous amount of courage can accomplish that.
Some readers might find Kim, Jeff, and Lisa’s personal issues grating. For that reason, not everyone may get through the entire novel. I recommend readers Borrow The Party.