"The Party" by Robyn Harding
I don’t remember when a book last grabbed me so forcefully from the start. Alas, The Party failed to retain this grasp to the finish.
The first chapter of this book was everything I want a first chapter to be. It was so good, in fact, that I started texting my book club about it pretty much immediately (which is a change from the usual contents of our group message – mostly memes from our most active – and most often drunk – member). I had no reservations in recommending the book early on because I was certain that, with a beginning so well-written and a premise so naturally compelling, the book would be an unforgettable read.
But it wasn’t.
For me, the strength of any book depends in large part on the believability of the characters. And this was my issue with The Party. Many of the characters seemed less like authentic people and more like caricatures.
The snobby rich bitch girl was just as slutty and perpetually drink and…well…bitchy as you would expect a snotty rich bitch to be.
Similarly, the I’m-working-out-constantly-and-no-longer-sleeping-with-my-wife-because-I’m-in-the-middle-of-a-mid-life-crisis dad was classically confused and disillusioned with his life.
Ultimately, I could have probably overlooked these weaknesses – and I did, for the lion’s share of the book – but then the end happened.
Oh, the end.
The ending was weak, but that alone I could have forgiven. The bigger issue was that, as the end drew near, the only character I had formed any real attachment to completely – and quite unrealistically – transformed from reasonable human being to a cold-hearted see you next Tuesday.
Readers were expected to believe that this character, the teen daughter whose sixteenth birthday party created enough drama to propel the plot for the entire rest of the book, suddenly did a 360 and abandoned all morals and values.
I can only assume that the author did this in an attempt to add a twist to the end of the book, but the twist was so unrealistic – so unnecessary – that it ended up being the nail in the coffin that was this book.
And, speaking of unrealistic – I know bullying is a thing, but the level of overt bullying that we were expected to believe happened in this book – yeah, nah. That isn’t happening.
Sure, kids cyber bully, but kids don’t chant derogatory names at a now disfigured teen in a cafeteria.
Like, where are the teachers?!?
Does this school have a principal?!?
Hell, does it have a crotchety old janitor?!?
Really, anyone… any adult… would have intervened.
Similarly, we are expected to believe that a word was painted on a locker during a class.
Um… how deserted are these halls?
I can’t remember the last time I was in a school without security cameras, so determining the perpetrator shouldn’t exactly require a hunt for DNA evidence.
While the idea that a teen would be bullied isn’t in and of itself unrealistic – unfortunately – the way in which this bullying was depicted suggests that the author was a bit out of touch with contemporary life.
Given these weaknesses, and despite my initial excitement, this book was ultimately pretty blah. It was an enjoyable diversion, but certainly not something I will revisit in my mind in the future or text people about (back to a group message containing nothing but a steady stream of memes, book club ladies).
Given the starting strength, and the overall read-ability of the book, I give it 3 out of 5 cocktails.
Getting disappointed by a book kinda sucks, but it happens. What's the last book that started strong but ultimately ended up disappointing you? Tell me about it in the comments, below.
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