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The Party by Robyn Harding

The Party by Robyn Harding
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Gallery!)
Summary: One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Contemporary

While most girls in her affluent San Francisco neighborhood have an elaborate and over-the-top Sweet Sixteen, Hannah is perfectly happy having a quiet night in with a pizza and a few friends. While she’s not exactly gung-ho about the idea of sneaking booze and drugs into the basement, Hannah craves popularity more than anything – and now that Lauren, the single most popular girl in their entire school, has acknowledged her existence (and agreed to come to the party), Hannah is more than willing to bend her parents’ rules a little. …or maybe a lot. The girls have plans for sneaking some boys in (another no-no), including Noah, Hannah’s boyfriend. She knows he won’t be content with just kissing for much longer, but the thought of going further terrifies her (though she’d never admit that, she doesn’t want to look like a prude).

What should have been a fun (okay, and maybe a little boring and childish – would Lauren really consider Hannah to be cool if they spend their entire night watching PG movies?) sleepover quickly takes a turn for the worse as the girls pass around the bottles of alcohol and handfuls of pills they grabbed from their parents’ cabinets. Blood, a basement that’s been turned into a crime scene, a race to the hospital as one girl’s life hangs in the balance.

It’s no secret I love thrillers, but I have to admit they usually come off as feeling a little farfetched with premises I can’t imagine ever experiencing (chasing down serial killers, stumbling across dead bodies, discovering Matt has been living a secret double-life this entire time ha!), but The Party can so easily happen. Four teens have a bit too much to drink (despite the parents forbidding alcohol – and when do teens ever listen?) and a tragedy occurs. It has happened before, it will happen again.

Hannah’s parents were already suffering a rocky relationship (after Jeff accepted a small vial of LSD recently while away at a work conference); the sudden trip to the hospital and ensuing lawsuit throws their lives into a tailspin. Jeff begins working out a little more, staying out a little longer and putting off his return home as long as possible. Kim strikes up a flirtation with a co-worker, eager for some sort of adult connection. Though the girl does survive, she ultimately loses an eye and as her mother sues Jeff and Kim for millions, secrets begin to emerge.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the main reason I tore through The Party so fast (I read it in a single sitting) was because I wanted to see how the lawsuit would play out, if Lisa would win. The rest of the book (high school bullies, the whole Lauren thing, Kim’s potential affair) just didn’t interest me as much. It felt like the book was trying too hard to ramp up the drama but I really didn’t care and only kept reading to see how it would all end.

Though The Party is by no means a bad book (or a badly-written one, for that matter), I couldn’t help but feel let down. I wanted more from this book than I got and expected something a little more thrilling from the amount of buzz it’s been getting. It’s an incredibly fast read, so it certainly has that going for it, but I’ve read much better thrillers. Still, for a lazy afternoon read, you could do far worse.

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