The Party by Robyn Harding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you to Robyn Harding, the publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Party. What a fantastic roller coaster ride of a read!
A catastrophic event creates a seismic shift in the lives of a small prep school community in San Francisco, California. Hannah, the daughter of fairly well to do family, is turning 16. Like many teenagers her age, she struggles to fit in at school. She’s smart, pretty, and a talented musician, but that doesn’t get anyone very far in a private high school. The sweet 16 party, which is a small, intimate sleepover with a mix of old friends and a few new friends, is her chance to finally get an “in” with the “in” crowd and move up on the social ladder of her high school.
Hannah’s mother, Kim, is strict and controlling. She lectures the girls about not drinking or using drugs in their house as soon as they step foot into the house for the party. Kim’s dad, Jeff, is not the disciplinarian, and, in a moment of really poor parental judgement, sneaks a bottle of champagne to the girls who are partying in their fancy basement.
Hannah, who wants to impress the two popular girls at the party (Ronni and Lauren), not only happily takes the champagne but also has her boyfriend and his friend smuggle in additional alcohol. To top it off, the girls have also brought their own debaucherous stash of alcoholic drinks and drugs. What could go wrong?
Well, as you can probably imagine, a LOT can go wrong with a toxic mix of teenagers, alcohol, and drugs. Since Hannah has always been an upstanding student and well behaved daughter, Kim doesn’t worry about the party downstairs. Kim takes a small dose of Ambien and drinks some wine to help her sleep the night away, not checking on the girls because Hannah has never given her a reason to worry.
Later that night, Hannah comes into Kim and Jeff’s room sobbing, hands covered in wet, warm blood. One of the girls at the sleepover has been irreparably injured due to the drugs and alcohol at the party, leaving Kim, Hannah, and Jeff to grapple with what it means to moral, compassionate, and a family in a litigious, judgmental, and helicopter-parent dominated society.
In the wake of the accident, the characters deal with their own character flaws. A former bully is now bullied at school. A parent struggles with the consequences of years of permissive parenting that contributed to the accident. A father is blackmailed and forced to come to terms with his own moral failings. A daughter realizes what it means to be a good person and friend, even if it comes at the cost of her family’s riches.
The author plunges deep into the lives of Hannah, Ronni, Lisa (Ronni’s mom), Kim (Hannah’s mom), and Jeff (Hannah’s dad). You hear the story from their perspectives, and each story and person has different but completely valid feelings about the accident and what restitution should involve. I absolutely adore a book with well developed characters and plot that is paced like a firecracker, quick and explosive. If I didn’t have to go to work, I would have read this book in one sitting. I finished it in two days during a busy work week because I could not put it down! Five stars for a fantastic read!
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