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This Gun’s For Hire, Even If We’re Just Dancing In the Dark

A review of Dark Parties by Sara Grant, in which government-enforced isolation has severely limited the gene pool.

This Gun’s For Hire, Even If We’re Just Dancing In the Dark

BOOK REPORT for Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Cover Story: Emo Lite
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Dystoperiffic
Bonus Factors: Tattoos, Standalone
Relationship Status: The Match.com Date That Turned Into A Pity Date That Turned Into A Front-Porch Kiss And A Promise For A Second Date

Cover Story: Emo Lite

If it weren't for the red, dripping snowflake, the cover would be cool and subtle enough for any situation. But the blood-like paint drips make me want to put a sticky note on the back that says, "This isn't a vampire sex book! Or a vampire book at all, I swear!" With the snowflake, it's just a little too "I want to die" for me. However, I AM grateful the title is in all caps, because when it's in lowercase, it looks like "dark panties." And while I have no problem with dark panties, it's not the sort of thing I like to read on an airplane.

The Deal:

Neva and her friends are officially adults -- they just turned 16 and received their work assignments. The night of graduation, she and her bff Sanna host a "Dark Party" -- basically a makeout party in a pitch-black room, under the guise of discovering their true inner selves without the distractions of physical similarities. In the generations people have lived under the Protectosphere, genetic variety is getting more and more limited (see inbreeding and government-induced marriage and babymaking), along with goods and resources. Neva's grandmother was convinced there was life outside the Protectosphere, and Neva's desperate to escape. When a minor rebellion led by Neva and Sanna results in Neva being questioned by the police and a friend disappearing, Neva's the only one left willing to fight for the truth. Oh, yeah, she's also left fighting the squiggly feelings she's had for Sanna's boyfriend ever since she accidentally kissed him at the Dark Party.

BFF Charm: Maybe

Neva's not a bad kid, but damn she's THICK. Sure, she's grown up in a false utopia, and sure, her dad's the government minister of history, aka the guy who censors all the information, so she's extra sheltered, so it's no surprise this girl would spend her whole life lost in the sauce. The fact that her three brain cells are too absorbed in each other to figure anything out was bad enough, but what made me buy a one-way ticket on the crazytrain to crazytown was her inability to just MAKE A DECISION ALREADY. One of the marks of a strong heroine is one who chooses -- right or wrong -- and doesn't take the heroic path just because it's A) the only one left or 2) someone throws her out of a moving car and shoves her down it. So. Anyway. Neva does get her shit together about three-quarters into the book, and it was enough to make me move her application from the "no" pile to the "maybe" pile.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

The tingly feelings Neva has for Braydon (her best friend's boyfriend) are pretty hot, and I was all ready to donate my (dark) panties for melting, but then I found out his signature mark was his pair of red, pointed-toe boots. Call me petty or shallow, but every time the hotness started ratcheting up, those boots would kick about 18 buckets of ice water all over it. And it's too bad, because one of the kids of the Protectosphere's quiet rebellions is to deny the government's push for procreation, and as they teach us here in the Bible belt, no sex is the only foolproof safe sex, so there's a fair amount of pent-up sexual frustration to work with (hence the 5, despite the boots). Sadly, Neva's boyfriend, Ethan, has been a douchecanoe of the highest order since he got arrested, so his particular brand of crazy is a No Swoon Zone.

Talky Talk: Dystoperiffic

Grant pulls out all the classic dystopian stops: totalitarian, all-seeing government; information selection; los desaparecidos; reproductive health invasions; xenophobia; total separation from an outside world; hidden rebel networks; people who aren't who they seem. It's fun, but it would have been more fun without being inside Neva's indecisive, dithering head all the time.

Bonus Factor: Tattoos

Because of inbreeding -- the government calls it "equality" -- everyone looks almost exactly the same, so rebels use "identity marks" to set themselves apart from others. Some people just use an item of clothing, like Braydon's fugly boots, but the serious ones are tattoos or scars. The identity marks and the reasons people choose them are a pretty cool part of the story.

Bonus Factor: Standalone

Although the book could have a sequel, so far it's a standalone! Not part of a planned trilogy! HALLE-FUCKING-LU-JA. It has a beginning, a middle and an end ALL IN THE SAME BOOK. Publishers: take note. The trilogy may be a cash cow, but sometimes a girl needs some immediate gratification.

Casting Call:

The cool thing about this book is the opportunity to cast nonwhite people! Hooray! But booooo to Hollywood for not having very many nonwhite people to cast.

Rhyon Nicole Brown as Neva

Wesley Jonathan as Braydon

With him as Braydon, I might forgive those red boots ...

Relationship Status: The Match.com Date That Turned Into A Pity Date That Turned Into A Front-Porch Kiss And A Promise For A Second Date

I was interested in this book's profile -- I wasn't sure we'd have wicked chemistry, but I was pretty sure we'd have a good time -- until it opened its mouth ... and didn't close it for an hour STRAIGHT. It wasn't bad enough to pretend to get an emergency text and ditch, but I was pretty sure this relationship wasn't going anywhere. But then its stories got interesting, and I ended up having a pretty fun time!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Little, Brown and their cute little comma. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.