Author: Robyn Harding
The Party is the first book I have read by Robyn Harding and I managed to get an uninterrupted block of time Sunday morning to read so devoured it was.
Sweet Sixteen is a turning point in many young lives, it’s a birthday that is celebrated as special though I’m not really sure what the significance is. Hannah Sanders certainly found that her sweet sixteenth was a turning point in her life, and not necessarily in a good way.
Hannah doesn’t want a big party for her sweet sixteenth, just a small sleepover. She has always been a good daughter and a good student; she plays piano and sport and has never rebelled. Her parents are quite strict and they set out the rules as soon as all the girls arrive. A small list of rules that are quite reasonable and what you would expect really. No drinking, no drugs, no pornography, no smoking and no boys.
This wouldn’t have been an issue for the Hannah her parents see but Hannah has a boyfriend and a couple of new friends, and their idea of a party is a little different. Hannah is desperate to become one of the popular kids and if that means doing things a little differently for her party this year then she is most definitely in. She is determined not to let her parents and their rules ruin her chances at cementing her place in the popular crew.
Tragedy strikes at the party and everything from that point begins to unravel. A girl is left injured and the fallout is felt by everyone. It starts the unearthing of information best left hidden, for Hannah and her family but also for their wider circle.
Kim and Jeff Sanders have a picture-perfect family facade but that is far from the true story of their family, The Party begins to out the truth of their lives; the secrets, the scandals, the lies, the betrayals and the inner lives they try to hide even from themselves.
I think my biggest fear with reads like this is that I have a daughter just entering her teen years, and I remember being a teen girl, and it scares me how easily you are left questioning just how well you know your daughter, and if you really know what she is up to. Social media and mobile phones have changed the terrain for teenagers an awful lot since my time; it brings people closer but it also makes so many of the less desirable trials of adolescence more terrifying. Cyber-bullying is something that you couldn’t do when I was a teen, something so noxious and dangerous that is rife today and it leaves me cold to think of how damaging it can be.
The Party is told from different viewpoints in alternating chapters by Hannah, her parents and the mother of the injured girl; each chapter is headed by a name and number of days after the party to keep us on top of the passage of time. The book is all in the third person though it focuses on different characters and what’s going on in their smaller circles.
A tragic accident cuts the party short leaving one girl in the hospital and the others driven home by Hannah’s dad Jeff. We are told what happened but there seems to be more than they’re letting on and it takes a while before we get the entire story.
Friends turn on each other, self-preservation instincts kick in and in all of the drama the one suffering the most is the poor girl injured at the party.
Hannah’s parents want to make sure people know they aren’t liable, and they have been cleared by the police, but Ronni’s mum wants someone to blame, and someone to pay. Jeff and Kim Sanders seem to have it all; the big house, the cars, the lifestyle that allows them to have the best of everything without Kim having to work while Ronni and single mum Lisa live in a small apartment so what better way to even the playing field than to sue them.
The behaviour of the parents gets pretty deplorable but it’s nothing on what’s going on with the teens.
I really enjoyed the read, the storyline kept me involved start to finish but the subject matter was really quite sad. The accident was exactly that, an accident, it could have happened to anyone but in the aftermath instead of banding together in support it ripped friendships apart and brought out the worst in people.
I was sympathetic to Hannah for the most part, she was trying too hard to be one of the cool kids and did things she wasn’t proud of; things she wasn’t sure about even as she did them but as the story progressed she seemed to be opening her eyes and reassessing her priorities. In the end I lost faith in her.
All in all this was an engrossing read that kept me involved, with the characters and the storyline. I enjoyed the drama behind the picture-perfect facade but I did find it difficult to be sympathetic to the characters that all ended up being so shallow and the teens that were so mean.
I would recommend to readers who are after a dark drama and it has been likened to The Slap (which I haven’t read) and Big Little Lies (which I haven’t read but did watch).