Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Neva keeps a list of the missing – people like her grandmother who have vanished. The people that everyone else pretends never existed.

In a world isolated by the Protectosphere – a dome which protects, but also imprisons – Neva and her friends dream of freedom.

But a forbidden party leads to complications. Suddenly Neva’s falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, uncovering secrets and lies that threaten to destroy her world – and learning the horrifying truth about what happens to The Missing…

In writing Dark Parties, Sara grant has combined elements of The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and some of the grimmest practices torn from today’s newspapers, Dark Parties is one of the darkest books I have read recently.

When he created Star Trek back in the 1960’s Gene Roddenberry used science fiction to hold a mirror up to the issues of the ‘60’s and Sara does something similar with Dark Parties.

Dark Parties is a subtly feminist novel with Neva our protagonist not a hard-core freedom fighter, but more realistically a young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman in a society where women have been reduced to almost second-class citizens fulfilling menial tasks as well as being housewives and child carriers to bolster a shrinking population.

Forget a bright future, the citizens of this society subsist on hand me downs and trading necessities with friends and neighbours, the technology where it exists has been repurposed to create a stasi-like spy network, with cameras on every corner and a population that does not know who to trust.

Brought up to believe that the world beyond the Protectosphere has been so utterly blighted and destroyed by war that their pocket of existence is all that remains, Neva and her friends know that something is wrong but they have no idea what, they just know that things must change, but they do not know how.
I found dark Parties to be a disturbing read, completely plausible and in that lay the seeds of my disquiet. I tend to moments of quiet paranoia and with the current fetishization of CCTV monitoring and tendencies to tighten up on laws especially those governing reproductive freedom I can see how such a society can develop… but I tell myself that it is paranoia and it will not happen (but that does not sound too convincing – even to me!)

Dark Parties has love, loss, betrayal, the now almost obligatory love triangle (between Neva, her best friend and best friend’s boyfriend), scenes of bleak horror that are all too real as well as redemption, reconciliation and release.

Dark Parties is thought-provoking and at times uncomfortable but is utterly compelling and eminently readable! It is dystopian science fiction at its best!

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