Dark Parties by Sara Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Neva keeps a list of The Missing - the people like her grandmother who were part of her life but who have now vanished. The people that everyone else pretends never existed. In a nation isolated beneath the dome of the Protectosphere - which is supposed to protect, but also imprisons - Neva and her friends dream of freedom. But life is becoming complicated for Neva. She's falling for her best friend's boyfriend - and she's learning more than she ever wanted to know about what might be happening to The Missing...
Despite the only 3 star rating this is not a bad book- it is actually a good book and I liked it. I really liked the world that was built inside the "protectosphere", and how everything is now old and falling apart, and nobody knows if it is even safe outside or not. Because generations have grown up inside the protectopshere everyone now looks very similar to each other, and Neva and her friends tattoo or scar themselves to make them distinctive. It is very creepy how the society that they live in expects that everybody will get married young and start having lots of babies.
It had a very real, very dark edge to it which I enjoyed. I felt like they were real teenagers, and I could connect to that. I also liked this dystopian model for preserving society- in a giant bubble with air mechanically pumped in, and having to recycle everything. I just felt that this idea has been done before, and done better (City of Ember, Inside Out, Eve).
I also didn't relate well to Neva. I thought she was quite fickle, and kept changing her mind who she was in love with. Her relationship with Braydon (her best friend's boyfriend) springs up out of nowhere, and she had been getting very serious with her boyfriend Ethan before that.
And also, considering everything that they are up against- the constant surveillence, that fact that any rebels just disappear, and the strong militaristic government- her childish attempts to form some kind of rebellion with her friends was very naive. Neva is protected by having a father in government who can vouch for her, and stand up to protect her, but her friends aren't so lucky, and it takes a long time for Neva to register what they are risking with their slogans and their petty pranks.
I did enjoy reading about Neva's memories of her Grandmother, who is now one of The Missing- people who just disappear one day accused of "unpatriotic acts". Her grandma calls her Little Snowflake and tells her that there is life outside of the protectosphere, and not to believe the lies of the official histories.
Neva tries to infiltrate right into the heart of the government in her attempts to learn the truth. There are secrets, and unexpected betrayals and an exciting escape from a cruel government facility. Overall- a good, enjoyable book. A dark and convincing dystopian tale.
My grandma told me once about a time, when we were different, a long, long time ago. Stories, handed down through the generations in whispers, about life before the Protectosphere. I still see her every day, even though she's long gone." Once upon a time my little snowflake," she'd say, "people were the most beautiful colours. Everyone was unique." That word made me giggle. "But it was too hard to be different and equal." She told me fantastic tales of wars caused by differences- different religions, different cultures, different skin colours. "We shut ourselves off. Now each generation grows more alike". Grandma was breaking one of the government's many unwritten rules. There's officially nothing before the Terror and the sealing of the Protectosphere, and nothing can survive outside it any more. But my grandma suspected that what's official is not always what's true. p10.
"The Protectosphere is killing us," Sanna blurts.Someone gasps. No one says things like that out loud. "We all know it. The government is squashing our future. Fewer choices, fewer resources. They keep us trapped with their lies. We deserve to know what's outside. There has to be more". P12.